Jordan Considers Ban On Iraqi Scrap Imports

By Tareq Delwani, IOL Correspondent

AMMAN , June 16 ( ? Jordan is considering a ban on Iraqi military scrap imports amid fears that they could be contaminated.

A committee of ten ministries and other government-run institutions has recommended the ban, citing health and environmental hazards of the booming scrap business.

Tons of scrap metals have been imported from Iraq by Jordanian traders at low prices since the fall of Baghdad to the US-led occupation forces.

The committee said that local inhabitants of northern Amman have complained of health problems including breath difficulty and severe headaches.

The imported scrap metals include destroyed military vehicles and tanks of the disbanded Iraqi army.

Jordanians fear that these military vehicles were shelled by depleted uranium during the US-British invasion of Iraq .

On April 25, the Observer quoted military sources as affirming that depleted uranium shells and bombs used by US and British troops during Iraq invasion were five times more than the number used during 1991 Gulf war.

The Pentagon had admitted shelling Iraq with about 350 tons of depleted uranium in 1991, aggravating cancerous tumors cases among Iraqis.

In a report issued Thursday, April 24, the UN Environment Program (UNEP) pressed the occupation forces topinpoint Iraqi sites hit by depleted uranium.

Booming Business

With a large amount of scrap metals trucked from the neighboring country, the trade is booming in Jordan .

In Al-Zarqa district in southern Amman , people tell of gangs smuggling the scrap metals from Iraq .

Others allege they had seen dismantled parts of Russian-made tanks of the Iraqi army.

Some estimated that more than 100 trucks loaded with scrap metals drive from Iraq to Jordan and the other five countries sharing borders with the war-scarred country every month.

“Spare parts of military equipment used in the Iraqi water and oil sectors are also smuggled every month to Jordan ,” said Abu Abdel-Rahman, a worker in the “Scrap Area” in the northern Amman city of Sahab .

Acting chief UN inspector Demetrius Perricos told the Security Council on Tuesday, June 10, that 20 engines from banned Iraqi missiles were found in a Jordanian scrap yard, raising new security questions about Iraq ‘s scrap metal sales since the occupation of the country.

The missile engines and some other equipment discovered in the scrap yards had been reportedly tagged by UN weapons monitors because of their potential dual use in legitimate civilian activities.

Perricos suggested that the interim Iraqi government, which will assume power on June 30, may want to reconsider policies for exporting scrap metals that apparently began in mid-2003.

He told reporters that up to a thousand tons of scrap metals were leaving Iraq every day.

“The only controls at the borders are for the weight of the scrap metal, and to check whether there are any explosive or radioactive materials within the scrap,” he said.

But the Jordanian government’s spokeswoman, Asma Khedr, dismissed the statements.

“The spare metals are only disposable scraps.”

Khedr said that Jordan has carried out stringent procedures to prevent access of poisonous materials across borders.

But traders still make good money out of the smuggling.

US To Blame

Analysts heaped blame on the US-led occupation forces for allowing the scrap metals to move from Iraq .

Sufyan Al-Tal accused the American troops of facilitating the scrap exports to protect their soldiers.

“The scrap metals had been hit by depleted uranium, something which highlights the danger of keeping them in Jordan ,” he said.

A military source close to NATO unveiled in July last year that several mysterious diseases were reported among a number of American troops within the vicinity of Baghdad airport.

He asserted there were levels of radioactive pollution with destructive impacts on man and environment that may lead to risks suffered by generations to come.

Following the invasion, the US occupation authority signed contracts with Israeli companies to export the scrap metals to Jordan .

The contracts could not be cancelled by the Jordanian government or the new Iraqi interim government.

Back to News Index