Less than three months after U.S.-led forces toppled Saddam Hussein, American-appointed Iraqi authorities began shipping thousands of tons of scrap metal out of the country, including at least 42 engines from banned missiles, according to a new report from U.N. weapons inspectors circulated Tuesday.
The scrap exports also included equipment that could be used to produce weapons of mass destruction, said the report, which was to be presented today to the U.N. Security Council.
The report says export of the materials was handled by the Iraqi Ministry of Trade, which was under the direct supervision of U.S. occupation authorities until June 28, when the Americans handed power to Iraq’s interim government.
The report criticized "the systematic removal" of items subject to U.N. monitoring from a number of sites.
The U.N. inspectors, who are barred from Iraq, said commercial satellite photos show that several important sites once used to manufacture missiles and precursors for chemical weapons have been destroyed or cleaned out. The report also said it was impossible to know what happened to U.N.-monitored equipment with the potential for making banned weapons.