France had a history of building dry milk plants for Saddam Hussein. This in itself is not so strange. What is strange is that the plants were never used to make powdered milk and were built by French weapons manufacturers including a builder of nuclear warheads for France’s atomic “Force de Frappe”.
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The Abu Ghurayb (pronounced ah-boo GRAYB), plant in Al-Kindi had been carried by American intelligence as a suspect biological warfare (BW) facility since 1988. The Ghraib Infant Formula Production Plant is located three miles from the abu-Ghraib military complex. Although the plant was built in 1980 and had never been used to produce infant formula, it still functioned in perfect working order with all of the equipment being maintained. The facility had not been changed since 1985 and the equipment was kept in working condition. Although according to some accounts there were no apparent suspicious activities at the plant, it did have the capacity to produce biological weapons from the plant’s facilities and from foodstuffs stored at the plant.
SOCIETE D’ETUDES TECHNIQUES ET D’ENTERPRISES GENERALES S.A. (“SODETEG”) is a French corporation that is involved in the provision of project management and construction services.
SODETEG contended that the baby milk plant that was constructed under the contract was completely destroyed. The destruction of the plant together with the trade embargo have rendered the defendants to the ICC arbitration a “worthless shell”. Accordingly, even if it was possible for SODETEG to seize the defendant’s assets, the latter would not have sufficient assets to satisfy the ICC arbitral award.
Project 600 was known as the “baby milk factory” and was located on the highway from Baghdad to Fallujah. Some equipment for a milk factory was installed at the facility and samples were distributed. Based on the level of activity at the factory (which did not make milk) the facility had very high-security including guards and sentries who patrolled the compound, a concrete fence and berm, and antiaircraft artillery emplacements. The Project 600 facility was converted to a BW filling plant. the filling factory was built within the preexisting milk factory. A six meter high dirt berm was constructed around the facility. In 1990, the-facility was ready to fill BW weapons. The Iraqis reportedly were not successful in filling artillery shells with BW agents at this site.
During Desert Storm the Abu Ghurayb Vaccine Plant at Al Kindi was struck on 23 January 1991, while the Abu Ghurayb Suspect BW Production facility was struck on 03 February 1991.
UNSCOM established that this facility was used to store biological agents, seed stocks and conduct biological warfare associated genetic research prior to the Gulf War.
The facility had been damaged in UK/US air attacks in 1998 during Operation Desert Fox but had been rebuilt. The residue from the castor bean pulp can be used in the production of the biological agent ricin.
Sodeteg ‘is closely involved in the design, testing and building of nuclear warheads for France’s atomic “Force de Frappe”, and [which] has played a major role in the Sahara and Pacific atomic testing sites. The concern has also commissioned the building of missile test ranges and several satellite tracking stations, among them the Paardefontein French tracking station near Pretoria.’
THE CHIEF OF THE FACILITY WAS AN IRAQI FROM THE
BAATH PARTY WITH NO SPECIFIC KNOWLEDGE OR QUALIFICATIONS. AT THE
FACILITY, 7.5-TON MERCEDES BENZ TRUCKS, LABELLED “BABY MILK
PLANT” IN ENGLISH, WERE USED TO TRANSPORT THE PLANT’S PRODUCTS.
3. THE OFFICIAL COVER STORY FOR THE PLANT IS AS
FOLLOWS: THE PLANT WAS BUILT AND DESIGNED BY THE FRENCH FIRM,
SODETEG, TO PRODUCE POWDERED INFANT FORMULA. AFTER ITS
CONSTRUCTION, IRAQI WORKERS MOVED IN AND THE FRENCH WORKERS
MOVED OUT. THE IRAQIS THEN LEARNED THAT IT WAS NOT POSSIBLE TO
MEET THE REQUIRED HYGIENIC STANDARDS FOR INFANT FORMULA
PRODUCTION, AND DECIDED TO PRODUCE A SIMILAR PRODUCT THAT
REQUIRED LOWER HYGIENIC STANDARDS. THE LABELS, “BABY MILK
PLANT,” WERE STILL ON THE TRUCKS.
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The plant closed in 1980, he said, when the last French technicians working for his company left Baghdad. No one from his company has been back since then, Wery said. Similarly, a representative from Sodeteg, the French company engineering firm subcontracted by Pierre Guerin, said its engineers had not returned to Baghdad.