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Group Claims Iran Has Biological Weapons

Resistance movement warns that the arsenal includes smallpox. It specifies those involved.

May 16, 2003|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — An Iranian opposition group claimed Thursday that Tehran has developed biological weapons, including some that could infect people with smallpox.

Representatives of the National Council of Resistance of Iran cited clandestine sources within the Iranian government but provided no evidence. They accused Iranian officials of also possessing weapons that could involve anthrax, plague and several other poisons and diseases.

"They can use it in a very, very deadly manner that can inflict heavy and widespread human damage," the group's Alireza Jafarzadeh said during a news conference.

Officials with the resistance movement specified laboratories, companies, military organizations and leaders they said were involved.

American intelligence officials have said Iran probably has a biological weapons program, but they have described it as probably much more limited in scope. A recent U.S. assessment on smallpox did not list Iran as one of the countries possessing samples of the disease.

U.S. officials have said some of the resistance group's earlier claims have been validated, particularly its allegations on Iranian nuclear programs, but other claims have been disputed.

Iran is a signatory to the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention, which prohibits such weapons.

The U.S. government has labeled the National Council of Resistance of Iran a terrorist organization, but the group is allowed to operate freely in Washington. Officials with the group, who say the terrorist label is a U.S. attempt to appease elements within the Iranian government, are trying to have the designation removed.

A member group, the Moujahedeen Khalq, received support from the government of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. It has begun turning in its weapons under a U.S. agreement reached after American forces ordered the group to disarm or face attack.

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