UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 7 (Xinhua) -- The United
Nations announced on Friday the establishment of a three-member fact-finding
panel to investigate last month's chemicals incident that appeared to have
raised a false alarm about a dangerous chemical weapon agent.
The panel will be "tasked with investigating the
circumstances surrounding the discovery of the substances at UNMOVIC premises
two weeks ago," UN spokesperson Michele Montas told a press briefing at the UN
It will be chaired by Stefan Mogl, who is the head of
Chemistry at Switzerland's SPIEZ national laboratory and previously headed the
Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons' laboratory.
Susan Brown is the director of the High Performance
Computing Outreach Center at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu. She is a
chemical engineering and energy technology expert who served in Iraq with the UN
Special Commission in the 1990s.
Under-Secretary-General for Safety and Security David
Veness will also serve on the panel.
They will see into the "circumstances under which the
substances in question were brought to UN Headquarters, the reasons why the
items were discovered only recently and safety procedures in place and the
extent to which they were followed," Montas said.
The team, which will act under the direction of Vijay
Nambiar, chief of staff of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, is expected to meet
for the first time next week and deliver a report to the secretary-general by
the end of October.
The materials were found on Aug. 24 when weapons
inspectors of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission
(UNMOVIC) were archiving their offices in a UN building near the main UN
Last week an inventory showed that the materials were
phosgene suspended in oil, an old-generation chemical warfare agent used widely
in World War I which can be life-threatening, causing the lungs to collapse.
They had been in UN files since 1996 when they
retrieved by UN inspectors from a former Iraqi chemical weapons facility.
The discovery prompted an evacuation of the UNMOVIC
offices and UN officials later said they had properly secured them and there
would be no "immediate threat to the public." The materials were then removed by
the Federal Investigation Bureau (FBI) experts.
Montas told reporters Thursday that preliminary study
shows that the substances are not harmful and that an investigative team would
be set up soon to ensure that similar incidents would not happen again.
UN officials said the substances appeared to be a
nontoxic chemical solvent, but a final analysis report is still pending from
UNMOVIC, the UN body that was tasked to search for
alleged weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, is winding down its work after the
UN Security Council voted in June to terminate its mandate.