A team of scientists sent to Iraq to remove chemicals from a U.N. laboratory discovered a deadly nerve agent but in such a small quantity that weapons experts said today it posed no danger.
Britain's ambassador to the U.N., Jeremy Greenstock, said there was "no reason to believe" the VX nerve agent, found in the Baghdad-based lab along with some unlabeled substances, posed a threat to Iraq's population.
His comments followed a Security Council briefing from Iqbal Riza, an aide to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, on the preliminary findings of the team, which arrived in the Iraqi capital last week.
The team is to remove or destroy chemical and biological agents left behind when U.N. weapons inspectors pulled out of Iraq in December on the eve of U.S. and British airstrikes.
In the June 1 report, Richard Butler, head of the U.N. weapons inspection commission, said tiny quantities of chemical warfare agents used to calibrate testing equipment, mustard gas, and biological samples were stored safely in freezers and posed no threat to the Iraqi population. VX was not mentioned.
The sample contained 0.1 milligram of VX, or one ten-thousandth of a gram, less than a lethal dose. A chemical expert from the U.N. weapons commission, Igor Mitrokhin of Russia, said the only possible use for the tiny sample was to calibrate equipment to test for VX.