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Gulf War Veterans Suing Companies For Chemical Exports

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    NHNE News List Current Members: 758 Subscribe/unsubscribe/archive info at the bottom of this message. ... GULF WAR VETERANS SUING COMPANIES FOR CHEMICAL
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 18, 2003
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      GULF WAR VETERANS SUING COMPANIES FOR CHEMICAL EXPORTS
      By Phil Hirschkorn and Richard Roth
      CNN New York Bureau
      Friday, January 17, 2003

      http://www.cnn.com/2003/LAW/01/17/iraq.chemical.suit/index.html

      NEW YORK (CNN) -- Twelve years after the Persian Gulf War began, some
      American veterans of that conflict are finding new ammunition in their fight
      to find out who supplied Iraq chemicals that might have made them sick.

      More than 5,000 veterans are plaintiffs in a lawsuit that accuses companies
      of helping Iraqi President Saddam Hussein build his chemical warfare
      arsenal. The plaintiffs are among the tens of thousands who came down with
      "Gulf War Illness," a debilitating series of ailments that can include
      chronic fatigue, skin rashes, muscle joint pain, memory loss, and brain
      damage.

      Now, plaintiffs' attorneys have acquired, for the first time, what they
      believe is strong evidence of which companies supplied Iraq the chemicals
      that might have been used to produce mustard gas, sarin nerve gas and VX.

      The supplier list, shown to CNN, is included in Iraq's 1998 weapons
      declaration to the United Nations, parts of which were resubmitted to
      weapons inspectors last month. Sources tell CNN the list is an authentic
      document, but attorneys for the companies question its accuracy and say the
      lawsuit is without merit.

      The Iraqi list names 56 suppliers of chemicals and equipment to process
      them. A majority are based in Europe.

      "If they are hit in the pocketbook, if they know the dictator they provide
      this stuff to is eventually gonna turn them over to the public and they are
      gonna be held accountable for what they've done, they're less likely to sell
      these things to Saddam or somebody like [him] in the future," plaintiffs'
      attorney Gary Pitts said.

      The lawsuit, originally filed by Pitts in a civil court in Brazoria County,
      Texas, in 1994, alleges that companies knew "products and/or manufacturing
      facilities supplied ... were to be used to produce chemical and biological
      weapons."

      The suit seeks at least $1 billion in damages for medical expenses, lost
      wages, and pain and suffering.

      Seven companies in the Iraqi weapons declaration have been named defendants.
      Pitts said the plaintiffs will sue more of the listed companies next.

      Germany is home to the most major suppliers listed in Iraq's 1998 U.N.
      declaration. The Netherlands and Switzerland each are home to three
      companies on the list. France, Austria and the United States each are home
      to two. The declaration says Singapore was the largest exporter of chemical
      weapons precursors. Other countries home to alleged chemical exporters to
      Iraq include India, Egypt, Spain and Luxembourg, with one each.

      The veterans' lawsuit has moved slowly for eight years. Neither the U.S.
      government nor the United Nations weapons inspection agency, formerly the
      U.N. Special Commission (UNSCOM) and now the U.N. Monitoring, Verification
      and Inspection Commission, would share supplier information requested by
      Pitts.

      "UNSCOM had a practice of not revealing names of companies of suppliers of
      equipment to Iraq because they often had the possibility of getting
      information from these companies, and the best way to get these companies to
      talk to them was not to publish their names to start with," Hans Blix, the
      chief weapons inspector, told CNN.

      Former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter, contacted by Pitts, acquired the
      list for the veterans during a meeting last year with Iraqi Deputy Prime
      Minister Tariq Aziz.

      "I brought out a series of compact discs which contained the totality of the
      Iraqi declaration," Ritter told CNN. The "full, final and complete" weapons
      declaration has never been made public. Ritter gave the CDs to Pitts.

      "I am assisting United States veterans, heroes," Ritter said. "People who
      put on our uniform, defended our country in time of war, who have been
      abandoned by their government."

      About 209,000 Gulf War veterans have filed claims with the Veterans
      Administration, and 161,000 of them are receiving disability payments.

      Neither American company listed -- Alcolac International, based in
      Baltimore, Maryland; and Al-Haddad Trading, based in Nashville, Tennessee --
      are still in business.

      No one from Al-Haddad could be reached.

      Alcolac paid a fine in 1989 under U.S. law for one charge of exporting
      thiodiglycol, a chemical that could be used to make mustard gas, but that
      shipment was destined for another country.

      "I am unaware of any direct sale from Alcolac to Iraq," says attorney Ron
      Welsh, who represents Rhodia, which owns the defunct Alcolac's assets.

      Welsh said the veteran's lawsuit "has no meat."

      One of the largest alleged suppliers to Iraq's chemical program, according
      to Iraq's list, was the German company Karl Kolb. A spokesman for the
      company said it has done business with Iraq for 35 years, but he denied any
      connection to its weapons programs.

      The German firm Preussag, since acquired by the travel conglomerate TUI,
      supplied chemical precursors for sarin nerve gas, according to Iraq's
      declaration. The firm told CNN that claim is untrue.

      Alcolac International was based in Baltimore, Maryland.

      Several German manufacturers listed -- Schott Glas, Klockner Ina, Ludwig
      Hammer, Heberger Bau -- denied connections to Iraq's weapons plants and said
      the lawsuit's accusations are false.

      "Schott Glas is a manufacturer of glass and glass components, not of
      weapons," attorney Palmer Hutcheson said.

      "The plaintiffs don't have a case. They have failed to show evidence that
      Klockner was involved in any way in helping Iraq produce chemical or
      biological weapons," attorney Brian Hurst said.

      The Dutch company Melchemie denied that it supplied "strategic raw
      materials" to Iraq. It has acknowledged improperly shipping chemicals to an
      Iraqi agricultural producer once, in 1984. Melchemie paid a fine and says
      it bought back the containers. The firm said its Iraqi exports are now
      limited to tomato and cucumber seeds.

      A Dutch-based subsidiary of Phillips Petroleum exported chemicals to Iraq
      but nothing illegal, according to Sam Stubbs, an attorney for Phillips.
      Stubbs said, "Any substance Phillips would have sold to Iraq would have been
      a useful and beneficial product, if used properly."

      The Indian company Exomet Plastics, now part of EPC Industrie, said the only
      chemicals it shipped to Iraq were for pesticides. The firm told CNN that
      when it was advised of the chemicals' possible misuse, it stopped further
      shipments.

      "There were no restrictions for exporting these chemicals at the time the
      exports were made," said EPC attorney S.R. Mate.

      Despite their names being listed by Iraq, the French firm De Dietrich and
      the Portuguese-owned Tafisa denied ever doing business with Iraq.

      Half of the firms listed by Iraq and now targeted by the lawsuit as "major
      suppliers" are either defunct or were unreachable.

      "We have thousands of American veterans who continue to suffer," Ritter
      said. I don't give a damn about these companies. If they're innocent, they
      won't pay a price. If they have done something they need to be ashamed of,
      then let your shame be public."

      CNN's Claudia Otto in Berlin, Germany; Chris Burns in Frankfurt, Germany;
      Andrei Braun and Karine Djili-Bienfait in Paris, France; Al Goodman in
      Madrid, Spain; Ram Ramgopal in New Delhi, India; Maria Ressa in Singapore;
      and Abighail Brigham, Shira Kavon and Elizabeth Hathway in New York
      contributed to this report.

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      CHEMICALS AND IRAQ
      THE SUIT ALLEGES COMPANIES WORLDWIDE SUPPLIED CHEMICALS TO IRAQ:

      Germany - 14 companies
      Netherlands - 3 companies
      Switzerland - 3 companies
      France - 2 companies
      Austria - 2 companies
      United States - 2 companies

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