Artikulli i meposhtem eshte botuar sot ne gazeten "Washington Post". Jane gjera qe ne si shqiptare pak a shume i dime, por me teper tregon serizitetin amerikan ne luften kunder terrorizmit. Po ashtu edhe pak histori shqiptare.
Albania's Chemical Cache Raises Fears About Others
Long-Forgotten Arms Had Little or No Security
By Joby Warrick
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 10, 2005; Page A01
TIRANA, Albania -- Near the end of his 40 years in power, Enver Hoxha prepared his tiny country for an invasion he warned was sure to come. The Marxist dictator built 750,000 concrete bunkers in the 1970s and 1980s and imported large quantities of weapons to repel an expected attack by Americans, Soviets, Yugoslavs or perhaps all three at once.
But his most prized weapons acquisition was a state secret known only to the Albanian leader and his closest advisers -- a secret that only now is coming fully to light.
In the mid-1970s, U.S. and Albanian officials now believe, Hoxha arranged the purchase of several hundred canisters of lethal military chemicals to be used in weapons against invading armies. The chemicals included yperite, or sulfur mustard, one of the chemicals used by Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to slaughter thousands of Kurdish civilians in the 1980s, as well as lewisite and adamsite, which are based on arsenic.
This deadly stockpile was hidden in one of Hoxha's bunkers, then forgotten after Hoxha died in 1985. The communist regime fell in 1991. The current Albanian government's surprise discovery of the canisters, acknowledged to U.S. and U.N. officials several months ago, has also led to the disclosure of the country that apparently supplied the chemicals: China.
Albanian officials recently allowed a reporter from The Washington Post to view the stockpile, a move that comes as there are ongoing efforts by the fledgling democracy to renounce the country's past and bolster its international standing. While the stockpile is small compared with the vast chemical weapons holdings of Russia and the United States, it is worrisome to U.S. officials because of what it represents: one of scores of undocumented or poorly secured weapons caches worldwide that could be exploited by terrorists with deadly effect.
"The threats turn up in the darndest places," said Joseph Cirincione, a weapons expert and director of the Non-proliferation Project at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "It illustrates the problem we face with Cold War arsenals, which are still deadly and still large. Just as you have to worry about what a crazy man is thinking in a cave in Afghanistan, you also have to worry about what happens to these weapons in places like Albania and North Korea. It's not that the Albanians would use them, but a terrorist group could learn of them and then try to pick the low-hanging fruit."
Although Albania moved quickly to secure the stockpile after its discovery, the chemicals had little or no protection for more than a decade, at a time when the country was roiled by social and economic upheaval internally and civil war across the border in Kosovo, U.S. officials in Washington said.
The 16 tons of chemicals theoretically contain enough poison for millions of lethal doses. In practical terms, casualties from an attack using mustard or lewisite would greatly depend on how and where the chemicals were dispersed. Weapons experts say a well-designed release of chemicals in a crowded, indoor setting could potentially kill hundreds or perhaps thousands of people.
The discovery also is significant because it appears to confirm something that U.S. intelligence analysts have long suspected: China's past role as a purveyor of chemical weapons technology. While China is believed to have halted such exports long ago, the discovery of Chinese-made yperite in Albania has fueled concerns about the possible existence of similar forgotten or abandoned stockpiles in other countries.
U.S. officials note that China also provided military aid to Romania, to what was then Yugoslavia and to several Middle Eastern countries in the 1970s and 1980s. China has never acknowledged transferring military chemicals abroad, and no stockpiles traced to China are known to have turned up until now. If they existed in the past, U.S. intelligence analysts say, the chemicals might have been destroyed, hidden away or -- as in the case of Albania -- forgotten.
It is theoretically possible, intelligence analysts say, that more undiscovered chemicals could yet be found in Albania. However, Albanian defense officials, who now are preparing to destroy the yperite with help from U.S. and U.N. agencies, say they are confident that all of Hoxha's canisters are safely locked away.
"We have searched everywhere, and I can declare to you that Albania has no more such weapons," said Albanian Lt. Col. Muharrim Alba, a senior arms control specialist with the Albanian Defense Ministry.
But Alba also acknowledged that Albania had been unable to find a shred of documentation describing the original purchase by Hoxha three decades ago. The investigation has turned up no letters, receipts or inventories, or even a single officer of the former government who is willing or able to recall how the chemicals were obtained.
"It was the height of the Cold War," said Alba, shrugging. "Communist countries helped each other. And they didn't always leave documents to show what they did."
'Ready to Be Used'
The small army outpost that serves as a holding cell for Albania's chemical stockpile is less than 25 miles from Tirana, the dusty capital of this mountainous country of 3.4 million people. But reaching it requires a treacherous journey over steep mountain roads better suited for goats than the four-wheel drive vehicles and ancient microbuses that regularly ply them.
Asphalt quickly gives way to narrow dirt trails hewn into the sides of the scrub-covered hills. Finally, a rutted path branches sharply to the right to reveal a cluster of bunkers, some of them cut into the mountain itself. The largest bunker, a flat-roofed brick structure no bigger than a volleyball court, is surrounded by a double curtain of wire fences, the inner one newly installed with U.S. aid and festooned with various sensors and cameras. It is here that Hoxha's chemicals are stored.
On a recent afternoon, a small cluster of young army guards, wearing green fatigues and toting Kalashnikov rifles, kept a wary eye on visitors to the compound while some of their comrades scoured the brush for firewood to ward off the December chill. Standing just outside the largest bunker, Albanian Lt. Col. Fadil Vucaj pointed out the multiple layers of security and explained, in the matter-of-fact language of a career military officer, why such unusual protections were needed.
"These chemicals stored here could be used as weapons of mass destruction," said Vucaj, a chemical weapons expert. "You could spray them from an airplane or use them in a bomb. They are ready to be used, just as they are."
Inside the building are row after row of containers and bottles of various colors and sizes. Most are red cylinders roughly the size of a propane tank. Numerals and, in some cases, Chinese characters are clearly visible on the outer casing. The Chinese writing identifies the contents of each container but not the origin. Altogether, the bunkers hold nearly 600 vessels containing about 16 tons of what is known in military jargon as "bulk agent."
The chemicals inside the canisters are products of an early generation of chemical weapons engineering. Yperite, a colorless or brown liquid with a garlicky odor, was the chief cause of death and injury from chemical warfare during World War I. Lewisite was the result of a U.S. attempt to improve on Yperite's lethality, but its invention in 1918 came too late for its use in the Great War. Other chemicals in the stockpile include a yperite-lewisite blend sometimes known as HL, as well as other chemicals designed to incapacitate, rather than kill.
The Albanian chemicals aren't nearly as deadly as more modern nerve agents, such as sarin and VX. But if released in a crowded stadium or subway car, they could cause scores or perhaps hundreds of casualties, U.S. and Albanian officials say. And, before their rediscovery by the Albanians, they would have been an easy target for thieves.
"The tanks are in good condition, they don't leak, and they are portable," Vucaj said. "To terrorists, they would have been very attractive."
A History of Isolation
Hoxha's intentions in acquiring the chemicals can be reliably deduced from his record as Europe's long-serving communist autocrat. After taking control of the country in 1944, the xenophobic Hoxha (pronounced HOE-djah) alienated one powerful ally after another as he led his impoverished country into extreme isolation.
An admirer of Joseph Stalin, Hoxha broke with the Soviet Union in the late 1960s after denouncing Nikita Khrushchev for straying from Marxist principles. He publicly applauded Mao Zedong's brutal Cultural Revolution in the late 1960s, a move that briefly earned Albania special status as China's proxy at the United Nations and its chief ally in Europe. China rewarded Hoxha with massive amounts of economic and military aid, including large quantities of arms.
It was during this period, probably in the middle 1970s, that Albania acquired the chemicals, U.S. and Albanian officials say. To analysts, the Chinese pedigree of the chemicals is self-evident, given the Chinese labels on the canisters and the close military ties that existed between the two countries. China has acknowledged producing chemical weapons in the past, although it now says its stockpiles and production facilities have all been destroyed.
The Albanians are less willing to point fingers. "Where the material came from is a question for technicians to answer," said Pandeli Majko, Albania's 37-year-old defense minister and a former prime minister. "For us, the important thing is that it is being destroyed."
The arms pipeline between Albania and the Chinese military machine went dry in the late 1970s when Hoxha soured on his new partners, publicly scolding the Chinese for seeking to normalize ties with the West. By 1979, Albania was virtually friendless in the world, with a plummeting standard of living that already was the lowest in Europe.
To keep control over his population, Hoxha stoked fears of an imminent invasion by any of a number of foreign armies said to be plotting together to destroy what he called his "workers' paradise" -- a favorite phrase among communist leaders. He drafted legions of laborers for Albania's most ambitious public works project: the construction throughout the country of 750,000 military bunkers, one for every four Albanians living at the time.
The purchase of the chemicals suggests that Hoxha might have believed the invasion threat was real.
"It would be typical of him, given his mind-set at the time," said one U.S. intelligence analyst who spoke on the condition that he not be identified. "It's the same mind-set that produced three-quarters of a million bunkers and such large numbers of conventional weapons. If Russia, the United States and Yugoslavia are all planning to attack you, you do whatever you can to defend the motherland."
Destruction to Begin in 2006
If all goes according to plan, sometime in 2006 a custom-made mobile incinerator will arrive in Albania from the United States to begin the process of physically destroying Hoxha's chemical stockpile. Trucks will haul the machine across the steep mountain roads to the very door of the bunker where the chemicals are now stored.
Albania signed the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1993. The treaty, signed by 167 nations, required disclosure and destruction of chemical weapons by 1997, although many signatories have failed to meet the deadlines. Albania's discovery of the chemicals last year meant that it was out of compliance with the treaty; destruction of them will bring it back into good standing with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the international chemical arms watchdog agency.
Already, Albania has garnered international praise for immediately disclosing the existence of the stockpile, then moving quickly to secure the chemicals in preparation for their destruction.
"Anytime a country comes clean about a chemical weapons stockpile and then moves to destroy it, it reinforces the norm against these weapons and reduces the potential for a diversion," said Jonathan Tucker, a chemical weapons expert and senior researcher at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies.
For its efforts, Albania is to receive $20 million in U.S. aid to pay for the physical destruction of the stockpile. As a country with ambitions to someday join NATO and the European Union, Albania also gets a chance to strengthen ties with Western nations and to burnish its credentials as a partner in the global effort against terrorism. Majko, the defense minister, said his country's actions reflect a "psychological" break with the past.
"After the Cold War, we have passed from a phase of irresponsibility and entered a phase of responsibility and transparency," Majko said. "Transparency means not only saying, but doing."
With the planned destruction of the chemicals, the United States also is crossing a threshold, though one less heralded. The $20 million set aside for Albania by the Bush administration is the first U.S. money earmarked for eliminating unconventional weapons anywhere outside the former Soviet Union.
While the United States has spent billions helping Russia destroy missile warheads and retrain weapons scientists, government regulations have for years blocked the use of federal funds to eliminate similar threats elsewhere in the world. Two years ago, State Department officials had to turn to a private organization, the Nuclear Threat Initiative, founded by Ted Turner and former senator Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), to fund a plan to remove weapons-grade uranium from a nuclear reactor in the former Yugoslavia.
Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), who has proposed legislation to lift the spending restrictions, argues that destroying weapons stockpiles such as the one in Albania should be near the top of the nation's defense priorities.
"The president has argued, quite correctly, that the most important security problem in the world is the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction," Lugar said. "Yet to this day, there are some people who oppose spending this money -- people who say that the Russians and the Albanians should take care of their own problems.
"But given how these weapons are already dispersed, there's a real possibility that one could be stolen and used to kill a lot of people," Lugar said. "To me, you can't do enough to make sure the American people are spared from that sort of thing."