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    Mystery Ships



    Three mystery ships are tracked over suspected 'weapons' cargo
    By Michael Harrison
    19 February 2003



    Three giant cargo ships are being tracked by US and British intelligence on suspicion that they might be carrying Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

    Each with a deadweight of 35,000 to 40,000 tonnes, the ships have been sailing around the world's oceans for the past three months while maintaining radio silence in clear violation of international maritime law, say authoritative shipping industry sources.

    The vessels left port in late November, just a few days after UN weapons inspectors led by Hans Blix began their search for the alleged Iraqi arsenal on their return to the country.

    Uncovering such a deadly cargo on board would give George Bush and Tony Blair the much sought-after "smoking gun" needed to justify an attack on Saddam Hussein's regime, in the face of massive public opposition to war.

    The ships were chartered by a shipping agent based in Egypt and are flying under the flags of three different countries. The continued radio silence since they left port, in addition to the captains' failure to provide information on their cargoes or their destinations, is a clear breach of international maritime laws.

    The vessels are thought to have spent much of their time in the deep waters of the Indian Ocean, berthing at sea when they need to collect supplies of fuel and food. They have berthed in a handful of Arab countries, including Yemen.

    American and British military forces are believed to be reluctant to stop and search the vessels for fear that any intervention might result in them being scuttled. If they were carrying chemical and biological weapons, or fissile nuclear material, and they were to be sunk at sea, the environmental damage could be catastrophic.

    Washington and London might also want to orchestrate any raids so that they can present the ships as "evidence" that President Saddam is engaged in "material breach" of UN resolutions. This could provide the trigger for military strikes. While security sources in London last night were unable to provide information on any surveillance operation, the movement of the three ships is the source of growing concern among maritime and intelligence experts.

    A shipping industry source told The Independent: "If Iraq does have weapons of mass destruction, then a very large part of its capability could be afloat on the high seas right now. These ships have maintained radio silence for long periods and, for a considerable time, they have been steaming around in ever-decreasing circles."

    The ships are thought to have set sail from a country other than Iraq to avoid running the gauntlet of Western naval vessels patrolling the Gulf. Defence experts believe that, if they are carrying weapons of mass destruction, these could have been smuggled out through Syria or Jordan.

    Despite hundreds of searches by UN inspectors, no evidence has yet been found of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programmes. A succession of "dossiers" presented by Downing Street has been criticised for providing inaccurate information, with the most recent one subject to ridicule because a student's 11-year-old doctoral thesis was being passed off as current intelligence. There was a further setback for Washington and London when the accuracy of satellite photographs shown to the United Nations by Colin Powell, the Secretary of State, purporting to show Iraqi officials moving incriminating evidence from a suspected site, was questioned by Hans Blix.

    Mr Blix said: "The reported movement of munitions at the site could just as easily have been a routine activity as a movement of proscribed munitions in anticipation of an imminent inspection."

    Attempts to link the Iraqi regime to al-Qa'ida and other Islamist groups have also been met with scepticism. The UN says, though, that Iraq has failed to account for 1,000 tonnes of chemical agents from the war against Iran; to reveal the whereabouts of 6,500 missing chemical rockets; to produce evidence it has destroyed 8,500 litres of anthrax; and to account for 380 rocket engines smuggled into Iraq with chemicals used for missile propellants and control systems.

    Intelligence reports, and some Iraqi defectors, have maintained that incriminating material and documents relating to weapons of mass destruction have been buried in remote parts of the country and have also been hidden in a variety of locations including homes of officials and scientists, as well as mosques. There have also been claims that chemical and biological products have been smuggled into Syria.


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    #2
    The Washington Times delivers breaking news and commentary on the issues that affect the future of our nation.


    Ship gets arms in and out
    By Bill Gertz
    THE WASHINGTON TIMES


    The North Korean ship that last year delivered Scud missiles to Yemen transferred a large shipment of chemical weapons material from Germany to North Korea recently, U.S. intelligence officials said.

    The ship, the Sosan, was monitored as it arrived in North Korea earlier this month carrying a shipment of sodium cyanide, a precursor chemical used in making nerve gas, said officials familiar with intelligence reports.
    The same ship was stopped by U.S. and Spanish naval vessels Dec. 9 as it neared Yemen. It was carrying 15 Scud missiles and warheads. After a brief delay and assurances from the Yemeni government, the ship was allowed to proceed to Yemen with the missile shipment.
    After unloading the missiles in Yemen, the Sosan then traveled to Germany, where it took on a cargo of sodium cyanide estimated to weigh several tons. The ship then was tracked as it traveled to North Korea. It arrived at the west coast seaport of Nampo on Thursday, the officials said.
    Disclosure of the chemical shipment comes amid heightened tensions between the United States and North Korea over Pyongyang's nuclear activities. The North Koreans were found to have violated a 1994 agreement to freeze plutonium production and other agreements prohibiting it from making nuclear arms.
    The Bush administration is planning in the coming months to impose sanctions aimed at halting weapons shipments to North Korea and cutting off funds sent to the communist state by Korean residents in Japan, said an administration official. The plans were first reported yesterday by the New York Times.
    North Korea's official media have said that any sanctions imposed on the country would be tantamount to a declaration of war.
    The official Korean Central News Agency confirmed that the Sosan arrived at Nampo on Thursday.
    At a press conference, the captain and crew answered questions for reporters and said that the Dec. 9 incident was an act of U.S. piracy.
    The Sosan's captain, Kang Cholryong, told the news agency that the crew, not wanting to surrender their cargo to the United States, tried to set the ship on fire and sink it but were stopped by U.S. commandos who boarded from helicopters.
    "The United States should be fully responsible for this piratical act and make a formal apology and due compensation to the [North Korean] government for it," the KCNA report stated.
    The action against the ship was "part of the premeditated and brigandish moves of the U.S. imperialists to isolate and stifle [North Korea] and dominate the world with their policy of strength," it stated.
    Sodium cyanide is a dual-use chemical. It is used to make the nerve gas sarin, as well as commercial products including pesticides and plastics.
    The chemical is controlled by the 34-nation Australia Group, a voluntary coalition of states that agree to curb exports of dual-use chemicals that can boost the chemical weapons programs of states like North Korea. Germany is a member of the group.
    A German Embassy spokesman could not be reached for comment.
    South Korea's defense ministry stated last year that North Korea has a stockpile of between 2,500 and 5,000 tons of chemical weapons, including 17 different types of agents.
    The ministry stated in a report made public in September that North Korea can produce 4,500 tons of chemical weapons agents annually. It also can produce a ton of biological weapons agent a year.
    Sodium cyanide is an ingredient of the deadly nerve agent sarin, a small amount of which can kill a human.
    The intercept of the Sosan near Yemen in December highlighted divisions within the Bush administration over how to act in curbing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and missile-delivery systems, U.S. officials said.
    White House National Security Council officials supported seizing the missiles, but State Department officials opposed the idea, saying it would damage relations with Yemen, a growing ally in the war against terrorism.
    The Sosan was seized after Yemen's government at first denied the missiles were theirs. The denial led U.S. intelligence officials to suspect the missiles could be headed for another country, such as Iraq, and they were seized.
    The ship was stopped after a Spanish warship fired warning shots at the vessel. It then was boarded by U.S. commandos who discovered the missiles, warheads and canisters of chemical used for the missile's solid rocket fuel.
    The Yemeni government then acknowledged the missiles had been purchased legally by the San'a government.
    Bush administration officials have described North Korea as a major supplier of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons know-how and missile-delivery systems.
    Richard Armitage, deputy secretary of state, told Congress earlier this month that North Korea's nuclear and other programs relating to weapons of mass destruction are threats to the United States.
    "North Korea's programs to develop weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery ... are also a threat to the international community, regional security, U.S. interests and U.S. forces, which remain an integral part of stability in the region," Mr. Armitage said.
    "It is time for North Korea to turn away from this self-destructive course. They have nothing to gain from acquiring nuclear weapons and much to lose. Indeed, every day, the people of that country are paying a terrible price for these programs in international isolation and misspent national resources."

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      #3

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        #4
        interesting

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          #5
          must be sindbad popeye and long john silver racing each other.
          The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he did not exist. And like that... he is gone.

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            #6
            Where are the Seals?

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              #7
              USA has been guarding Iraqi air and sea for the past 12 years!.from where these ghost ships materialize?

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                #8
                So why is this just coming out now?? They've been at sea since November!

                And also.. If they are carrying something then surely that clearly demonstrates that intelligence over bombing is the best way to disarm...

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                  #9
                  Originally posted by spoon:
                  So why is this just coming out now?? They've been at sea since November!

                  And also.. If they are carrying something then surely that clearly demonstrates that intelligence over bombing is the best way to disarm...


                  Absolutely!

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