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U.S. Names 4 Countries Hiding Smallpox Virus

November 05, 2002|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — U.S. intelligence has concluded that four nations outside of the United States -- Iraq, North Korea, Russia and France -- probably possess hidden samples of the smallpox virus, a U.S. official said Monday.

U.S. officials worry that Iraq and North Korea could develop potent biological weapons with their samples, and Russian laxity could allow other nations to obtain the deadly disease for use as a weapon.

The fears that smallpox, declared eradicated in 1980, could again be loose on the world have driven the Bush administration to consider vaccinations for the American populace.

Many experts suspected North Korea had samples of the smallpox virus. A Russian intelligence report made public in 1993 accused Pyongyang of having a smallpox weapon, though that has not been publicly corroborated.

The Washington Post, which first reported the intelligence finding on its Web site late Monday, said France's samples are believed to be for defensive research programs aimed at limiting casualties from an outbreak.

Before 1998, U.N. weapon inspectors found limited evidence of a smallpox program in Iraq.

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