Expert says USSR may be Iraq's source of chemical weapons

A Belgian toxicologist suspects that some of the poisons contained in chemical weapons used against Iranians came from the Soviet Union. Prof. Aubin Heyndrickx had proved last week in laboratory tests that Iranian soldiers being treated in a Vienna hospital were suffering from wounds caused by chemical weapons.

The professor told the Monitor on Monday that the chemical compounds he had discovered in the soldiers do not exist in the West and that it is unlikely they were manufactured in Iraq.

Tests conducted by Professor Heyndrickx showed that the Iranian soldiers were attacked with a combination of ''mustard gas'' and mycotoxins - a form of biological warfare.

''This is the first time in world history - as far as we know - that mustard gas and mycotoxins have been used in combination, producing a synergistic effect ,'' Heyndrickx said. Four of the 15 Iranian soldiers flown to Vienna and Stockholm for treatment earlier this month have died.

More than 120 countries, including Iran and Iraq, have signed the 1925 Geneva protocol prohibiting the use of chemical weapons and all substances capable of causing ''unnecessary suffering.''

Heyndrickx, who heads the toxicology department at the State University of Ghent, maintains mustard gas can be made by any country with a chemical plant. But, he says, manufacturing mycotoxins requires sophisticated technology that Iraq does not have. Other scientists have disagreed in the past, arguing that production of such mycotoxins involves a simple process.

The United States government has maintained that the Soviet Union provided a form of biochemical weapon, mycotoxins known as ''yellow rain,'' to clients in Southeast Asia and used them in Afghanistan. ''The problem is also now in Iran, '' according to the Belgian researcher. (Some nongovernmental scientists, however, say there is not sufficient evidence behind US claims.)

Heyndrickx drew great attention earlier this year when he revealed lab evidence showing the USSR and its allies had used mycotoxins in Southeast Asia. This was said to be the first proof, based on samples from the region, to come from sources outside North America.

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