A man who spoke at Iowa State University today headed U-N weapons inspection teams in Iraq right after the Gulf War, and he believes Iraq can hide most anything. Dr. David Franz, an international expert on biological and chemical warfare, led three United Nations weapons inspections teams in 1993 and ’94, and he calls it an “eye-opening” experience. Franz served as Commander of the U-S Army’s Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, and developed vaccines and tests for diagnosing U-S soldiers who might come into contact with chemical or biological agents. He says Iraq was a “totally different world” because the U-S military stopped making chemical and biological weapons in 1969, and very few Americans understand how to make such weapons. Franz says he was a little naive going in because the Iraqis play by completely different rules. Franz thought the Iraqis couldn’t produce human pathogens safely in the first lab he inspected, but he learned Iraq doesn’t adhere to the kinds of safeguards that’re commonplace here. Franz says the current U-N weapons inspection team faces a tougher challenge than his did. Franz says his inspection group was looking for a large facility that could produce tons of biological or chemical weapons, whereas today’s U-N weapons inspectors are looking for an amount of material the size of a toaster that could be used in a terrorist attack. Franz spoke this morning to Iowa State University veterinary students. Franz, who is a vet, says veterinarians could be “first responders” to some biological attacks, as it was shown by the foot-and-mouth outbreak in the U-K that the sooner you can diagnose a problem, the fewer lives that will be lost.Franz says vets are, in some ways, better trained to deal with widespread attacks of disease than doctors. Franz says vets have thought more about “herd health” over the years, while physicians have been concerned about individual health. Franz is currently vice president of the chemical and biological defense division of a private company based in Maryland.
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