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Dutch Salvage Firm Suspects Wrecks May Hold Iraqi Chemical Weapons

September 24, 1995

IJMUIDEN, Netherlands (AP) _ Chemical weapons could be aboard 20 Iraqi ships sunk during the Gulf War and now lying on the seabed in the Persian Gulf, a Dutch salvage company said Sunday.

The company, Wijsmuller, offered no evidence to support its suspicions. Iraq is believed to have used chemical weapons against Kurds in northern Iraq and during its war with neighboring Iran.

Wijsmuller, one of the world’s best-known salvage companies, is negotiating with the United Nations and the International Maritime Organization to salvage the 20 wrecks, said spokeswoman Laura Keegstra.

``Probably there could be some chemical weapons on board. But we cannot confirm it,″ Keegstra said. The ships include tug boats, barges, dredgers and two crude oil tankers that are a threat to the environment, she added.

There was no indication that the ships were deliberately sunk by Iraq to avoid Allied forces seizing weapons of mass destruction during or after the 1991 conflict.

There were no details immediately available on the exact location of the wrecks.

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