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Published: Thursday, 8/30/2007

U.N. weapons inspectors find potentially hazardous chemical agent in office near headquarters

ASSOCIATED PRESS

UNITED NATIONS - U.N. weapons inspectors who had been in Iraq discovered potentially hazardous chemical agents in their office near U.N. headquarters as they were wrapping up their operation, a U.N. spokesman said Thursday.

"There is no immediate risk or danger," U.N. deputy spokeswoman Marie Okabe said.

She said one of the substances identified on Wednesday was phosgene suspended in oil, "whose present state is unknown but which could be potentially hazardous."

Phosgene can be used as a chemical warfare agent.

The material was immediately secured by experts at the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission known as UNMOVIC and the U.N. sought assistance from U.S. authorities in having the material safely removed, she said.

UNMOVIC staff are still working on the premises.

"The office area was screened using UNOMVIC's chemical weapons detection equipment. No toxic vapors were found. There is no immediate risk or danger. UNMOVIC staff are still working on the premises," Okabe said.

The material in a sealed plastic bag includes "unknown liquid substances contained in metal and glass containers ranging in size from small vials to tubes the length of a pen in one of the sealed plastic bags," she said. "The only information we have of the contents of that bag is from an inventory of a 1996 inspection which indicates that one of the items may contain phosgene, an old generation chemical warfare agent."

Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com



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