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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Showdown Iraq: Iraq Said Seeking Nerve Gas Antidote

Aired November 12, 2002 - 12:03   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The Bush administration now is on the trail of as many as a million doses of a nerve gas antidote that officials say Iraq has been trying to import.
Our national security correspondent, David Ensor, is here with me. He joins me now live.

What's going on -- David.

DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you say, the Iraqis, officials say, have ordered as many as a million doses of the drug, atropine, which is a drug used to counter the effects of nerve gas. The orders were received by Turkish companies starting earlier this year, U.S. officials say, and a senior Turkish official is also confirming that.

Now, the officials are saying they do not know whether any of the atropine was delivered to the Iraqis, though Turkish officials have told CNN, there have been no exports of that antidote drug to Iraq.

Administration officials are asking the Turkish government to make sure the orders are not filled, although atropine, and another drug also ordered that is to counter the effects of chemical weapons, are not on the United Nations list of items that Iraq is not supposed to be able to import.

Now, a key question obviously is: Why is Iraq seeking to acquire such a huge stockpile of nerve gas antidote? And of course, they may be planning to use nerve gas against U.S. forces if they invade. That possibility obviously worries U.S. officials, but they also see some additional possibilities.

One is that Iraq may want the antidote in case the U.S. bombs a major supply of Iraqi nerve gas to protect its own people. And then one official suggested to me that Iraq may have placed the order simply to raise concern in the West that it may plan to use chemical weapons in the event of an invasion, although in fact knowing that the U.S. would probably convince the Turks not to deliver the antidote.

BLITZER: A little psychological warfare perhaps on the Iraqi part.

ENSOR: Exactly.

BLITZER: There's also a report, David, that the Iraqis are using their embassies, their diplomats to keep tab on U.S. diplomats and embassies around the world. What's that all about? ENSOR: Well, U.S. officials tell me, Wolf, that that is correct -- that Iraqi agents, Iraqi officials, have been seen looking around in a suspicious way around U.S. diplomatic and military facilities around the world in one or two cases. But the official said it was rather clumsy, it was rather obvious, it wasn't very hard for us to track.

BLITZER: All right, David Ensor, thanks very much for that information.

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