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Report: Iraqi Businessman Produced Cyanide for Saddam in Florida

July 3, 1991

NEW YORK (AP) _ An Iraqi businessman who built a chemical weapons factory in Libya erected a plant in Florida that produced cyanide later shipped to Iraq, ABC reported.

The production and shipment of the cyanide - which could be used in weapons - went on even though a CIA source and two whistleblowers warned U.S. government agencies, ″Nightline″ reported Tuesday night.

The scheme began when Dr. Ihsan Barbouti, the Iraqi owner of a German company that between 1984 and 1988 built a chemical weapons plant in Rabta, Libya, financed a plan to build a factory in Boca Raton, Fla., that would extract cherry flavoring from apricot pits.

Barbouti was interested, ″Nightline″ said, because a byproduct of the process was ferric ferrocyanide, from which pure cyanide can be extracted.

During the construction, a former Barbouti employee and a security expert told government agencies - including the CIA, FBI and Customs Service - that Barbouti was building a plant that could produce chemical weapons, ABC said.

Despite their warnings, the government did not step in, ″Nightline″ said.

Asked to respond to the report, Customs Service spokesman Ed Kitridge said today that the agency has been investigating the Barbouti case, but he couldn’t comment on the allegations because its work has not been completed.

In a statement, the CIA said it was made aware of allegations that Barbouti was involved in activities ″in support of weapons proliferation in the Middle East,″ and that it turned over the information to the FBI.

The plant was completed in late 1988 and eventually some cyanide was shipped to Iraq, the program said.

″I know that we are missing approximately seven empty drums from our plant,″ said Louis Champon, developer of the flavor-extraction process. ″I believe now that 2,000 pounds were taken out of the plant.″

The drums were taken by truck to Houston, shipped to Baltimore, then packed in a container and marked as personal property of a diplomat, making it off- limits to inspection by customs agents, the report said.

The container was shipped to Rotterdam, transferred to a ship that went to Jordan, then taken by truck to Iraq, the report said.

The cyanide compound was to be used in the trial manufacture of nerve gas, ″Nightline″ said. If those tests succeeded, Iraq could develop the technology to produce a chemical weapon from fruit pits, according to he program.

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