The Sudan Ground War

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The U.S. hit Sudan with a double whammy late Monday -- not more missiles, but a couple of withering charges about that Shifa Pharmaceuticals plant in northern Khartoum. Not only do intelligence sources claim possession of a "soil sample" containing EMPTA, an ingredient in VX nerve gas, but they also insist the factory was a chemical weapons bazaar -- primed to produce VX for Baghdad as well as Bin Laden. Nonsense, say the Sudanese: Soil samples from outside the plant are no indication of what's going on within, and taking samples from inside the plant would require a power drill. Futhermore, Sudan alleges, their only Iraqi contract was for humanitarian deliveries of medicine.

Special Report Curiously, the intelligence leaks came as the Security Council put off a decision on whether to send U.N. inspectors to the plant. "I don't see what the purpose of a fact-finding study would be," said U.S. representative Peter Burleigh. "We already have credible information that fully justifies the strike." And as if by magic, that information appeared all over Tuesday's media. But the story creates more queries than it answers -- such as, why didn't the U.S. strike at a second Sudanese factory where it says Iraqi nerve gas scientists were working? And won't there still be traces of EMPTA in the Khartoum soil, even now? Such questions may just pique the U.N.'s interest after all.