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The Case of the 'Deadly' Drone

An unmanned aircraft with a 25-foot wingspan is at the center of a US/UN weapons controversy.

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Iraq rolled out a controversial drone aircraft Wednesday, in an effort to rebut American claims that Iraq could use it to spread chemical and biological weapons.

The primitive craft - its wings held together with tin foil and duct tape, and two wooden propellers bolted to engines far smaller than those of a lawn mower - looked more like a high-school science project than the "smoking gun" that could spark a war.

"We are really astonished when we hear that this [craft] has been 'discovered' by inspection teams, [as] it has been declared in detail," said Ibrahim Hussein, an Iraqi Air Force general. "Nothing was hidden about it."

US Secretary of State Colin Powell has said that this drone "should be of concern to everybody," and American officials have sought to portray the issue as one of a series of Iraqi disarmament missteps. Britain also called Wednesday for "an accounting for unmanned aerial vehicles" as one of its six disarmament conditions for Iraq.

To stave off an invasion, Baghdad is stepping up rebuttals of such US allegations. US officials said Tuesday that high altitude U-2 surveillance planes, provided by the US Air Force, were threatened by Iraq and recalled. Iraq refuted the allegation within an hour of it becoming public, saying that two aircraft entered Iraqi airspace when only one had been approved.

The remotely piloted drone - with "God is Great" written in Arabic along the fuselage and on each wing, with a red permanent marker - has a wingspan of nearly 25 feet (a little more than half the wingspan of the US Predator drone).


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