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Prelim nerve warhead test negative

Experts have yet to test the suspected chemical warhead
Experts have yet to test the suspected chemical warhead

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KIRKUK, Iraq (CNN) -- A second set of preliminary chemical tests conducted Saturday on a warhead discovered at an occupied northern Iraqi airbase in Kirkuk found no trace of chemical weaponry, contradicting earlier tests which found trace amounts of a nerve agent.

The warhead tested at zero on a six-bar scale in two separate "Improved Chemical Agent Monitor" (ICAM) tests conducted by U.S. soldiers after two other tests performed with ICAM equipment by other soldiers scored one bar each time.

One of the soldiers who performed the second set of tests told CNN that nothing much should be read into the findings because no definitive answers will emerge until chemical experts arrive at the base and break into the warhead. Those experts were notified of the warhead's discovery, but it is not clear when they will arrive at the base.

The initial one-bar score would be consistent with some leakage from a chemically armed weapon, military sources had told CNN. The earlier trace amounts were found in two spots on the baseball bat-length warhead -- at the rear and in the middle where there is a screwed-down circular area about the size of a quarter.

The warhead is about the width of a coffee can and is marked with a green band which, military sources told CNN, is the universal symbol for chemical weaponry.

Soldiers were standing guard Saturday outside the storage facility where the warhead was discovered Friday during routine operations to secure the airfield. A big wooden box next to the one containing the warhead had a 13-foot missile in it, though CNN has not been able to confirm a connection between the two.

That missile is but one of many troops have found at the base. Some underground bunkers the size of basketball courts were discovered piled high with cans of munitions, crates of missiles, and number of 1,000-pound bombs.

"It appears as though the airbase was evacuated hastily," Maj. Rob Gowan, a public affairs officer said. "A lot of indicators seem to say that the Iraqi forces that were here left very quickly."

In a separate incident, a man who said he is the base's former commander stepped forward with additional information on possible chemical weaponry.

The former Iraqi air force colonel came to Kirkuk Friday and told military officials he knew of 120 missiles within about an 18-mile radius of Kirkuk -- 24 of those carrying chemical munitions, according to an army intelligence posting at the airfield's military headquarters.

The man said he had been liberated from an Iraqi prison after Kirkuk fell to coalition forces, military intelligence said.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This report was written in accordance with Pentagon ground rules allowing so-called embedded reporting, in which journalists join deployed troops. Among the rules accepted by all participating news organizations is an agreement not to disclose sensitive operational details. Thomas Nybo is accompanying U.S. troops with the 173rd Airborne Brigade.


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