tells U.N. 'terrorist groups' seized former chemical weapons depot
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[July 09, 2014]
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Iraq's
government has lost control of a former chemical weapons facility to
"armed terrorist groups" and is unable to fulfill its international
obligations to destroy toxins kept there, the country's U.N. envoy told
the United Nations.
In a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, made public on
Tuesday, Ambassador Mohamed Ali Alhakim said the Muthanna facility
north of Baghdad was seized on June 11. He said remnants of a former
chemical weapons program are kept in two bunkers there.
"The project management spotted at dawn on Thursday, 12 June 2014,
through the camera surveillance system, the looting of some of the
project equipment and appliances, before the terrorists disabled the
surveillance system," Alhakim wrote in the letter dated June 30.
The Sunni Muslim group known as the Islamic State is spearheading a
patchwork of insurgents who have taken over large swaths of Syria
and Iraq. The group, an al Qaeda offshoot, until recently called
itself the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
"The Government of Iraq requests the States Members of the United
Nations to understand the current inability of Iraq, owing to the
deterioration of the security situation, to fulfill its obligations
to destroy chemical weapons," he said.
Iraq would resume its obligations when the security situation
improves and it has regained control of the facility, Alhakim said.
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U.S. Defense Department spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said last
month that the United States' best understanding was that "whatever
material was kept there is pretty old and not likely to be able to
be accessed or used against anyone right now."
"We aren't viewing this particular site and their holding it as a
major issue at this point," Kirby said. "Should they even be able to
access the materials, frankly, it would likely be more of a threat
to them than anyone else."
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols at the United Nations and Missy Ryan
in Washington; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)
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