UN sets up panel to probe chemicals incident
www.chinaview.cn 2007-09-08 03:44:18   Print

    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 Headquarters.

    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 Headquarters building.

    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 FBI.

    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.

Editor: Mu Xuequan
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