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U.S.: Saddam's family took $1 billion from bank

Rumsfeld may cite purported weapons lab as WMD evidence

Retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, third from left, visits an oil refinery in Basra. President Bush has named Paul Bremer as the top civil administrator for Iraq.
Retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, third from left, visits an oil refinery in Basra. President Bush has named Paul Bremer as the top civil administrator for Iraq.

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CNN's Karl Penhaul says nearly $1 billion in currency was reportedly taken from Iraq's central bank by Saddam Hussein's son Qusay
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• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- About $1 billion was taken from Iraq's Central Bank by Saddam Hussein and his family, just hours before the United States began bombing Iraq, the U.S. State Department said Tuesday.

Spokesman Richard Boucher said the government doesn't know yet where the cash might have ended up, and U.S. agents are hunting down these and other "assets stolen by the regime."

"We do know from Treasury Department officials in Baghdad that approximately $1 billion was taken from the Iraqi Central Bank by Saddam Hussein and his family just prior to the start of combat operations," Boucher told reporters.

"We'll actively follow up on all the leads," he said.

George Mullinax, a U.S. Treasury Department official in Iraq to oversee the rebuilding of the country's economy, said the withdrawal took place March 18. He said his main sources of information were Iraqi banking officials. (Full story)

People who live near the Central Bank told CNN that they saw three or four trucks backed up to the bank then and that people appeared to be loading money onto the trucks.

Large amounts of money have been found in the aftermath of the war, including the discovery of $650 million at one of Saddam's palaces. It is not clear, however, whether any of that money was from the Central Bank.

Citing an unnamed banking official with knowledge of the withdrawal, The New York Times reported that Qusay Hussein and Abid al-Hamid Mahmood, Saddam's personal assistant, were involved. The newspaper quoted the official saying the two men had a signed letter from Saddam authorizing the removal of the funds.

Fears have been raised that the money is helping finance senior members of Saddam's government, many of whom are believed to be in hiding in Iraq, according to the newspaper.

Mobile lab found?

In Washington, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is expected to cite what the United States says is a mobile biological weapons laboratory as evidence that Iraq had an active bioweapons program until recently, Pentagon officials said Monday. (Full story)

Pentagon officials said Rumsfeld may mention the truck Tuesday at a Pentagon briefing.

The suspected mobile laboratory is on a truck frame and resembles drawings shown by Secretary of State Colin Powell at the United Nations in February, sources said. (Interactive: Powell's presentation)

At the time, Powell said the United States suspected that Iraq had at least seven mobile labs.

On Friday, U.S. officials told CNN Correspondent David Ensor that they believed a truck, seized the previous week by U.S. troops south of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, may have contained a mobile biological weapons laboratory.

Pentagon officials now say the United States has confirmed that the truck did contain equipment for making biological agents, but no biological material was found, according to sources.

The equipment in the truck had "recently been thoroughly scrubbed," one official told CNN. The official described the vehicle as looking like an old moving van with "suspicious-looking" equipment inside.

In February, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell described what he said were mobile biological weapons manufacturing labs.
In February, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell described what he said were mobile biological weapons manufacturing labs.

Meanwhile, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft said Tuesday that investigators believe that "organized criminal groups" were involved in the looting and theft of artifacts from Iraq during the collapse of Saddam's regime. (Full story)

"From the evidence that has emerged, there is a strong case to be made that the looting and theft of the artifacts was perpetrated by organized criminal groups," Ashcroft said at a two-day meeting at the international police agency Interpol's headquarters in Lyon, France.

Ashcroft said the FBI will continue to rely on the help of Interpol's communications network to help track and return the ancient artifacts, most of which were stolen from Iraq's National Museum in Baghdad. (Gallery: The looted museum)

Other developments

• Mohammed Aldouri, Iraq's former ambassador to the United Nations, said President Bush, allied with neo-conservatives, sought an enemy as early as 2000, and called Saddam Hussein a "tyrant." In an interview published Tuesday in the Gulf News, an English-language daily newspaper based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Aldouri, 61, said that despite the appearance of loyalty he never agreed with how the Iraqi leader treated the people of Iraq. "Tyranny contradicts my nature and beliefs," he said.

A U.S. Army tank is parked outside the looted Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad on Tuesday.
A U.S. Army tank is parked outside the looted Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad on Tuesday.

• Poland will take an active role in the reconstruction of Iraq's economic and political institutions, Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz said Tuesday. "In the last several years, with our economic and political transformation, we've got that kind of experience," Cimoszewicz said. His remarks were made during a short news conference with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell after the two met Tuesday morning. (Full story)

• President Bush named former U.S. State Department counterterrorism chief L. Paul Bremer as the United States' top civil administrator for Iraq, an administration source told CNN. Bremer will focus on political issues, while retired Army Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, director of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, will focus on humanitarian relief and reconstruction, Pentagon officials said. Both men will report to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

• Spanish troops in Iraq are soon to become involved in security and policing tasks, Spain's Defense Minister Federico Trillo announced Tuesday, one of his top aides told CNN. Until now, Spain's role has been limited to humanitarian efforts. Spain will formally make the offer allowing its troops to undertake security tasks at an international conference on Iraq to be held in London on Thursday, the aide said. (Full story)

• Rescued prisoner of war Pfc. Jessica Lynch is suffering from a form of amnesia, preventing her from remembering details from the time she was ambushed in Iraq to a point during her captivity there, authorities said Monday. Lynch suffered a head laceration and spinal injury, and her legs and her right arm and foot were broken during her ordeal in Iraq. Lynch, who recently turned 20, has been recuperating at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. (Full story)

CNN Correspondents Karl Penhaul and Jamie McIntyre contributed to this report.

EDITOR'S NOTE: CNN's policy is to not report information that puts operational security at risk.

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