US approved sale of atropine drug to Iraq
WASHINGTON: The United States approved the sale to Iraq over the past five years of the drug atropine, which can be used to inoculate soldiers against chemical weapons, The Washington Post said Thursday.
More than 3.5 million ampules of the drug were sold under the UN-supervised oil-for-food program, by Russian and Italian companies between late 1997 and November of this year, the paper said citing UN sources and UN confidential documents.
However, United Nations officials said the quantity of atropine contained in each vial — 0.6 milligrams — was consistent with dosages used to speed up the heart rate of a heart attack victim. .
Chemical poisoning requires doses of two milligrams.
More than two million vials of atropine have been delivered to Iraq, with the rest awaiting shipment, the sources said.
The disclosure comes after Washington this week began seeking UN restrictions on the sale of atropine to Iraq, out of concern it could be used to protect Iraqi soldiers during a possible chemical attack on US troops.
Before then, the United States had the authority to stop atropine shipments, but rarely exercised it.
It relinquished that authority in an agreement with the UN Security Council to ease restrictions on the import of civilian goods into Iraq, the daily said.
US concern over atropine sale grew when it found out Iraq had approached Turkey to purchase massive quantities of the drug and auto-injectors, which are designed to treat victims of pesticide or nerve agent poisoning, the daily said.
Asked why atropine or auto-injectors had not been added to the list of items requiring Security Council review, US ambassador to the United Nations John Negroponte said, “I honestly don’t know the answer.”
However, he added that the United States had received a commitment from the other council members to consider placing new restrictions on atropine and auto-injectors before the end of the month. —AFP