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3rd-World Quest for Nuclear Arms Seen : Military: A chemical arsenal couldn't save Iraq from attack, the Gulf War shows. It may compel countries to seek a stronger 'safeguard.'

May 05, 1991|WILLIAM TUOHY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LONDON — One unsettling ramification of the Persian Gulf War may be a move among Third World nations of the Middle East and elsewhere to seek nuclear weapons capabilities, according to the London-based Research Institute for the Study of Conflict and Terrorism.

An institute study, prepared by arms control specialist Frank Barnaby, says that some Middle Eastern countries, including Iraq, had added chemical weapons to their armories as a possible deterrent against use of nuclear arms by Israel.

These nations now will have noted that Iraq's possession of such weapons did nothing to deter the assault against it of the U.S.-led Gulf coalition, Barnaby wrote, and these and other nations may seek to gain nuclear weapons to serve as a "safeguard."

This pessimistic view may be reinforced by the fact that, while high-cost, high-technology weapons were shown to have been effective in the Gulf War, such armaments are too expensive or too complicated for poorer countries to afford and operate.

"The worst legacy of the Gulf War," the institute study said, "may be that Third World countries (in the Middle East and elsewhere) will conclude that since they cannot acquire and operate comprehensive high-technology conventional arsenals, their security can only be assured by the acquisition of nuclear weapons, perceiving that without these they will be unable effectively to deter a country armed with the most modern weapons from attacking their territory."

Nevertheless, the report calls for "realistic short-term measures to control armaments in the Middle East," which would include:

* Exporting to the Middle East countries only defensive short-range weapons, particularly anti-tank, anti-aircraft, and anti-ship systems.

* Negotiating a comprehensive, legally enforceable ban on exports to the region of ballistic missiles and missile technologies.

* Insisting on full-scope safeguards, applied by the International Atomic Energy Agency, on all exports to the Middle East of nuclear facilities and nuclear materials.

* Strengthening and making more comprehensive the regulations under which the raw materials for chemical weapons are exported to the Middle East.

But the report points out that "the history of the negotiation of arms control and disarmament treaties shows that they are generally negotiable only after the countries involved are satisfied with their existing regional security arrangements.

"Security within the Middle East must come before arms reductions. And Israel, for example, believes that it needs more rather than fewer arms for its security."

Further, says the report, "the problem of restricting the sale of arms to the Middle East is also complicated by the oil resources there and the consequent desire by the major powers to retain and expand political influence in the region. Supplying weapons is seen by the major arms suppliers as a way of achieving this foreign policy goal."

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