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CNN SUNDAY MORNING

What is Cyclosarin?

Aired April 27, 2003 - 11:20   ET

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

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We are continuing to find -- continuing to follow preliminary reports of a potential chemical weapons find. Nic Robertson has been reporting about that for the last 40 minutes or so, this outside of the northern Iraqi city of Tikrit. Nic reporting both a mustard-like gas agent apparently identified, as well as possibly cyclosarin. There were some preliminary tests. Both those agents are undergoing further tests. You're looking, there, at some descriptions of what cyclosarin is, chemical agent, some of the symptoms. We're joined by our medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen to talk more about cyclosarin.
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Very powerful stuff. Many of us have heard of sarin. Cyclosarin is even more powerful, even more dangerous. When it's weaponized, it's used in a liquid form in a rocket or in missile. And then if any of that liquid, even just a very small amount, gets on someone's skin, it can affect the nerve endings, so that the person ends up having fluid buildup in the airways, and ends up having constricted airways, and dies that way. It is a very, very terrible way to die.

What happens is that troops were told to carry around atropine, which is an injection they could give themselves, but they were trained to use it quickly. If they started to have runny eyes, if they started to have an itchy nose, they were trained to think sarin, or cyclosarin, and then give themselves the injection if necessary.

ARENA: How quickly could that be weaponized? When I was in Tokyo during the sarin gas attack, actually on the train, and I remember how that felt. Can this be easily weaponized?

COHEN: It could pretty easily be weaponized. We were talking to a member of the U.N. inspections team under Richard Butler. And he said that what the Iraqis would do, is they wouldn't want to have it sitting around weaponizable, in its weaponized form, because it would degrade very quickly. So what they would do is they would have rockets that were full, or missiles that were full of alcohol, and then they would put the cyclosarin in there, and when it would mix with the alcohol, then it was active. And that's how it was weaponized.

ARENA: Right. So if this is really a find, this is serious stuff.

COHEN: Absolutely.

COOPER: And obviously a story we will continue to follow, not only in the rest of this program, but throughout the day. And we should just again emphasize that this is a preliminary test. They did early tests.

ARENA: Lots of false positives before.

COOPER: We have seen this a lot in the last couple of days.

ARENA: Thanks, Elizabeth.

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