UK did not stop Saddam regime making chemical weapons, documents show

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein speaks at a news conference in Baghdad, Iraq, Nov. 11, 1980. (AP)

Newly-released government documents from the early 1980s show that UK diplomats delayed taking action to prevent Iraq obtaining chemical weapons – partially because of British exporters being involved, The Guardian reported on Thursday.

A trove of documents from the UK government’s Foreign Office show that even before former President Saddam Hussein’s regime began using poison gas against Iranian attacks, British diplomats were aware – and wrestled over the prospect of interventions.

At the height of the Iran-Iraq war - which killed around half-a-million and resulted no change in borders between the two states – the UK’s ambassador in Baghdad, John Moberly, informed London of the “manufacture and use of mustard gas by the Iraqi army,” adding that UK firms had supplied Iraqi chemical plants.

However, the UK Foreign Office chose not to slap restrictions on trade. At the time, the Saddam regime was closer to the West than Iran.

Around 20,000 Iranians were believed to have been killed by Iraqi mustard gas and nerve agents during the eight-year conflict.

The Chemical Weapons Convention banning the production, storage and use of chemical weapons was not enacted until 1997.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:48 - GMT 06:48