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U.N. May Let Iraq Rebuild Factory

July 3, 1999

DAURA, Iraq (AP) _ The U.N. Security Council has agreed to send a team of experts to assess whether a vaccine factory ordered destroyed by U.N. weapons inspectors should be reconstructed, an official for the world body said Saturday.

Experts from Britain, Germany and France are scheduled to arrive in Iraq on July 15 to inspect the factory in Daura, 12 miles east of Baghdad, Amir Khalil of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said.

U.N. arms inspectors had the factory’s equipment destroyed in 1996 after concluding Iraq had used the facility for the production of biological weapons.

However, the loss of the factory’s vaccine-making capability meant the country was ill-prepared to handle an outbreak of hoof-and-mouth disease last year.

The sickness, also known as foot-and-mouth disease, has infected at least 1 million farm animals, the Food and Agriculture Organization reported. At least 400,000 animals have died for lack of the vaccine.

The head of Iraq’s U.N. humanitarian program, Benon Sevan, toured the plant with reporters Saturday and said he believed it should be rehabilitated.

Khalil said the factory was the first of its kind in the Middle East and used to supply vaccines to almost every country in the region.

An undersecretary at the Agriculture Ministry, Basil Dalaly, said Iraq would welcome an investigation by U.N. experts.

Asked whether the factory had produced biological weapons, Dalaly said: ``Never. Never.″

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