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Letter says Hussein sought chemical attacks

BAGHDAD -- Saddam Hussein ordered plans drawn up for a chemical weapons attack on Kurdish guerrilla bases in northern Iraq in 1987, according to a letter signed by his personal secretary that is among documents recently declassified by the US military.

The documents, a series of memos between Hussein's office, the military intelligence service, and the army chief of staff found by US troops in Iraq, do not say whether the attack was carried out.

But a doctor who traveled with Kurdish troops at the time says some of them were injured in a mustard gas attack 10 days after the last memo.

The disclosure, as Hussein's trial on unrelated murder and torture charges is underway, could shed new light on the killings of Kurds that the former Iraqi leader might be tried for in the future.

Although Hussein has long been blamed for chemical attacks known to have been conducted by Iraq's military during the 1980-88 war with Iran, the memos are some of the first documents to be made public that appear to directly link Hussein to the use of such arms, which has been banned by international treaty since the 1920s.

President Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq after citing, among other reasons, charges that Hussein's regime was hiding weapons of mass destruction, but no such weapons were found after his ouster in April 2003. Iraq's weapons of mass destruction appear to have been destroyed by UN specialists following the 1991 Gulf War.

The memos are among hundreds of documents gathered by the US military since the invasion of Iraq that are now being declassified. The US military cautioned on its website that the government ''has made no determination regarding the authenticity of the documents, validity or factual accuracy of the information contained therein.''

The planned attack outlined in the documents appears to have been part of the 1987-88 Anfal campaign that killed more than 180,000 Kurds and demolished hundreds of Kurdish villages in northern Iraq.

There were no documents saying the strike was carried out.

However, Faiq Mohammed, a Kurdish doctor who accompanied guerrillas in the north, told the Associated Press yesterday that warplanes dropped mustard gas bombs on Balisian on April 16, 1987. A number of Kurdish fighters were wounded, some of whom he said he treated.

Mohammed, who now has a clinic in Sulaimaniyah and heads a small group called the Kurdistan Solution Party, said he heard of a similar attack in an area called Balakjar near Qaradagh during the same period.

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