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Jamie McIntyre: Empty rockets don't amount to smoking gun

CNN's Jamie McIntyre
CNN's Jamie McIntyre

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

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.N. arms inspectors in Iraq on Thursday found 11 empty chemical warheads and one warhead that requires additional evaluation, according to a statement from the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission.

A team from UNMOVIC made the warhead discovery at the Ukhaider ammunition storage area, 93 miles (150 kilometers) southwest of Baghdad, where inspectors went to check a large group of bunkers constructed in the late 1990s. The 122 mm warheads were in "excellent condition," UNMOVIC said.

CNN Pentagon Correspondent Jamie McIntyre filed this report Thursday:

MCINTYRE: At this point, empty chemical rockets don't amount to a smoking gun. The key word here is empty. Without any nerve agent inside these rockets, they don't actually constitute chemical weapons. But we're awaiting the evaluation of the U.N. weapons inspectors about exactly what these rockets show.

These are 122 mm rockets -- the same kind of rockets the U.S. forces discovered in ammunition depots ... after the end of the Gulf War. ... U.S. troops at a munition storage area in Iraq destroyed a number of these 122 mm rockets that upon later inspection were revealed to contain both deadly sarin and cyclosarin at some point.

You can tell these 122 mm rockets from regular munitions because they've been modified to contain chemical weapons. They have a polyurethane inner sleeve; they have a special nozzle for putting the nerve agent in the rocket.

So the key question for inspectors is were these actually chemical weapons or were they recently filled with chemicals or were they never filled with chemicals?

If they've never been filled with chemicals, then they're not really chemical weapons. They're just part of the delivery system. And then there's a question about whether they should have been accounted for, and whether they were accounted for or whether they were something that simply fell through the cracks of Iraqi inventory.

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