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Further tests required for chemicals

From Nic Robertson
CNN

Fourteen 55-gallon drums were found in a field near Bai'ji, about 130 miles north of Baghdad.
Fourteen 55-gallon drums were found in a field near Bai'ji, about 130 miles north of Baghdad.

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Initial tests on a batch of chemicals discovered by U.S. forces in northern Iraq indicated the presence of chemical weapons agents, but different tests are said to show conflicting results. CNN's Nic Robertson reports (April 28)
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BAI'JI, Iraq (CNN) -- Substances found at a remote northern Iraq site were undergoing additional tests Monday for the presence of chemical weapons, a U.S. military official said.

The Mobile Exploitation Team Bravo took samples Sunday, which have been taken away for additional analysis in the United States and Iraq, said 1st Lt. Valerie Phipps.

Two earlier sets of tests conducted at the scene were positive for the presence of chemical weapons; a third was negative.

The United States and Britain accused Saddam Hussein's regime of hiding chemical weapons from U.N. weapons inspectors and invaded Iraq in March with the stated aim of stripping the country of banned weapons.

No weapons of mass destruction were used against advancing coalition troops, and so far none have been identified.

"I remain confident they [weapons of mass destruction] will be found," British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Monday.

Fourteen 55-gallon drums were found in a field near a former Iraqi military position at Bai'ji, about 130 miles (208 kilometers) north of Baghdad.

Preliminary tests of chemicals from one drum indicated the presence of two weapons -- the nerve agent cyclosarin and a blister agent, said Lt. Col. Ted Martin. There was an indication that the blister agent could be mustard gas.

A Sensitive Site team was called in and found the same result.

The third team, MET Bravo, came to the site, and its field tests were negative, according to Phipps, whose unit is guarding the site where the chemicals were found.

The material was found near a mobile laboratory that soldiers said could have been used to mix chemicals, Martin said.

Two early tests indicated the presence of chemical weapons, but a third was negative.
Two early tests indicated the presence of chemical weapons, but a third was negative.

Martin said it was common for armies to mix agents to make it harder to opposing forces to protect themselves from them.

The soldiers also found what they said were a number of surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles about 50 yards away and about 150 gas masks of a higher quality than others left behind by retreating Iraqi troops.

Other chemical finds initially indicating the presence of potential weapons of mass destruction have turned out to be pesticides or other industrial chemicals upon later testing.

The 1st Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, was dispatched to the site -- about 40 miles north of Tikrit, Saddam's ancestral homeland -- based on intelligence gathered from U.S. Special Forces.

Iraq acknowledged producing 795 tons of cyclosarin, which it used against Iranian troops in the 1980s, but said it destroyed remaining stocks of its chemical and biological weapons as was required under the terms of the cease-fire that ended the 1991 Persian Gulf War.


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