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U.S.: Iraq may use chemical warfare

From CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr

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•  Commanders: U.S. | Iraq
•  Weapons: 3D Models

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. officials tell CNN there is "recent" and "fresh" evidence that Iraq is planning to use chemical weapons, perhaps against U.S. forces or Iraqi citizens.

"They clearly have given some chemical capability to some Iraqi forces," said one U.S. official.

Officials stress they have not yet seen Iraq move any chemical munitions but say they have "information" that Republican Guard units south of Baghdad have been issued chemical munitions.

There is also growing concern that some Iraqi artillery now in place near the Kuwaiti border is capable of firing shells filled with chemical weapons.

Officials are reluctant to disclose the specific intelligence, but several sources indicated there is "increased chatter" among Iraqi military officials about the use of chemical weapons.

This "chatter" has been heard in the past few days and led to the officials' conclusion. It is not clear where the chemical munitions are that Iraq might be planning to use.

"Clearly there are current plans for Iraqi forces to use chemical weapons," one senior Pentagon official told CNN.

For weeks now the U.S. Air Force has been dropping millions of leaflets over Iraq urging Iraqi troops not to use weapons of mass destruction.

The Bush administration has signaled it would hold Iraqi leaders responsible for such actions and possibly charge them with war crimes.

The senior Pentagon official also confirmed that Iraq now has enough explosives in the oil fields to rapidly set them on fire if ordered. But there is still no firm evidence any wells have yet been wired with explosives.

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