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Under pressure, US sending team to ferret out WMD
Posted: Friday, April 18, 2003

Al Jazeera with agency inputs

Under intense pressure to prove the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the United States is sending a 1,000-strong force to Iraq to hunt them out.

US defence officials said the "Iraq Survey Group" would probably be led by a general and would consist of military personnel, government intelligence analysts, civilian scientists and private contractors.

Initial elements of the WMD team are already on the ground in Iraq and the full contingent should be operational within two weeks, the officials said.

The survey team will focus on putting a larger number of personnel into Iraq to conduct a more organized search for WMD based on intelligence leads. This latest effort to locate the elusive WMD is part of the increasing perception in the Pentagon that the US no longer expects to find them on its own, but will have to offer rewards to Iraqis to draw out information on where to look.

Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had earlier said, "I think what will happen is, we'll discover people who will tell us where to go find it."

"It is not like a treasure hunt, where you just run around looking everywhere hoping you find something," said Rumsfeld. "The (UN weapons) inspectors didn't find anything, and I doubt that we will. What we will do is find the people who will tell us."

Pressure is mounting on US forces in Iraq to uncover any banned weapons, which it cited as its main justification for invading the country and toppling Saddam Hussein. The US and Britain had repeatedly accused Saddam Hussein of threatening world peace by amassing weapons of mass destruction, yet no such weapons have yet been discovered.

UN diplomats are now insisting that sanctions should not be lifted until the Security Council certifies that Iraq is free of WMD.

"If the weapons are not identified and found then I think people will start to ask very, very serious questions about what the war was really all about," Richard Butler, former head of UN weapons inspections in Iraq said.

Hans Blix, Butler's successor who pulled his team out of Iraq before the US-led invasion, said his inspectors could be back in Iraq within two weeks. The US has said it prefers to do the job itself.

"So far they have not found any weapons of mass destruction," Blix said. "I think at some stage they would like to have some credible international verification of what they find."

The capture in Baghdad of Saddam Husseinís half-brother Barzan Ibrahim Hasan al-Tikriti, has meanwhile raised some US hopes that he might help to locate any possible WMDs.

April 18, 2003


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