July (AFP) July 1, 2000 - US officials say that Iraq has restarted its weapons program and flight-tested a short-range ballistic missile, the New York Times reported Saturday.
Iraq has conducted eight tests in all, the daily reported, including one last Tuesday. Officials said production plants and research labs destroyed in December 1998 by US and British warplanes had been rebuilt and resumed work, according to the Times.
The daily wrote that Iraq's liquid-fueled "Al Samoud" missile did not violate United Nations restrictions imposed on Baghdad after the Persian Gulf war in 1991, because the missile's range is less than 150 kilometers (95 miles).
Still, officials in Washington are concerned that the missiles could transport conventional explosives or the chemical and biological weapons that Iraq is still suspected of hiding. Officials also fear that Baghdad may be working to perfect its ballistic missile technology, which could be adapted to missiles with a longer range, the Times wrote.
The United States and Britain attacked Iraq in 1998 to punish the government of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein for halting cooperation with international weapons inspectors. A large number of the targets struck in those raids industrial and military factories.
After the strikes the US Defense Department said they had set back Iraq's missile program by one to two years. But officials now say the damage to the missile centers appears to have been less significant, according to the Times.
Iraq began work on Al Samoud -- which means "resistance" in Arabic -- after the Persian Gulf war. The missile is believed to be a variant of the Soviet-era SA-2.
US officials said the new missile did not appear to be ready for deployment yet.