Saddam's bunker described

 

President Saddam Hussein has a vast subterranean bomb shelter, a nuclear-proof "mini-city" where he could hide for months with no outside help, Iraqi exiles in Europe said yesterday.

These exiles, once close to the Iraqi leader, said the shelter was designed by then-East German engineers and built during the 1980s when Iraq was at war with Iran. hey said the Iraqi leader had always been fascinated with underground shelters and that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction were undoubtedly hidden beneath ground.

The sources said the sonar scanners used by UN weapons inspectors in 1993 to locate Mr Saddam's weapons of mass destruction had found nothing because the weapons were buried too deep. "These scanners can only detect arms to a depth of 10 metres, and Saddam knows it," they said. "They need a more advanced system to find Saddam's arsenal."

They said that although German engineers had designed Mr Saddam's underground bomb shelter, it had been built exclusively by Iraqis to keep the exact location a secret. The fate of the builders remains uncertain, they added.

The Iraqi exiles described the bomb shelter as a veritable palace in which Mr Saddam and his immediate family could live in total comfort for months.

"The shelter has everything, even a gymnasium with sauna and a `patio' complete with artificial plants to provide Saddam the illusion that he is taking the air in his garden," they said.

Reuters adds from Washington: If the US military attacks Iraq it will use a "smarter" and more lethal arsenal of missiles and bombs than those which pounded Baghdad in the 1991 Gulf War.

A US force of more than 300 aircraft and some 20 ships in the region could strike with weapons ranging from satellite-guided Tomahawk cruise missiles to a bomb that is dropped and then glides nearly 50 miles to its target.

Also available are new 5,000-lb "bunker buster" bombs that ride a laser beam of bright light to blast their way through more than 12 ft of concrete.

Perhaps the biggest improvement since the war is in $1 million Tomahawk cruise missiles. The new Block-3 version of the ship-fired Tomahawk has a longer range of 1,000 miles and uses satellite positioning guidance, along with a computer map brain for accuracy. It is tipped with a high-explosive warhead encased in super-strong titanium to penetrate walls, or releases 166 small "bomblets" to blast individual tanks and other targets.