Reporters on the Job

ANTHRAX IN KABUL: When the Monitor's Scott Peterson heard that there was an anthrax facility on the edge of Kabul, his first thought was "What a scoop." There is, in fact, a lab in the Afghan capital and it's supported by the International Red Cross. But its purpose is to make anthrax vaccine for domestic animals.

Anthrax is a common disease among sheep in Afghanistan and many developing countries. The original anthrax cultures arrived at the lab decades ago, from laboratories in India, Iran, and Turkey.

Still, Dr. Abdulkadir Raoufi, the lab director, was worried that after the anthrax attacks in the US, American bombers would target his lab. He heard a radio report that his vaccine-making facility was "still in the hands of the Taliban Mullahs."

His was not an unreasonable concern, given that every known vaccine and chemical laboratory in Iraq - where extensive chemical and biological weapons programs were underway for years - has been destroyed by American bombs and United Nations weapons inspectors.

But the strain of anthrax Dr. Raoufi works with is so harmless to humans that "I will wash my hands and face with it, if you want." And Raoufi says that during the five years of Taliban rule in Afghanistan, he never received a request from the Islamic militants of the regime or from bin Laden agents, to convert his laboratory to use the deadly variety of anthrax. When the Taliban were in charge, they appointed a non-scientist director who knew nothing about their work, who "drank tea, signed the register each day and went home," Raoufi says.

NO RULES REMODELING: Fred Weir's family owns a Moscow apartment, which they rent out. So, he has been following the Russian remodeling craze he writes about today (page 1) for years. "In our building, people have enclosed their balconies, and extended their living rooms and bedrooms. The result, from the outside, is a building with an amazing variety of protruding shapes and colors."

David Clark Scott

World editor

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Mail to: One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115 via e-mail: world@csmonitor.com

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