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Rumsfeld: WMD unlikely to be found at suspected sites

Rumsfeld on the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq:
Rumsfeld on the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq: "I don't think we're going to just stumble over something."

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. investigators are unlikely to find Iraq's alleged chemical and biological weapons at any site suspected of having them before the war, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Sunday.

"We've got multi-agency teams doing what they do," Rumsfeld told CNN's "Late Edition." "They're looking at the sites we have knowledge of, and of course the reality is that, if we have knowledge of a site -- and a suspect site is probably the way we should phrase it -- it's very likely things are not there."

He predicted that a better way to learn the location of the weapons would be through Iraqis volunteering information to U.S. authorities.

"The only way I know we're going to get it is through people. If anyone has any ideas, we're always happy to hear them," he said.

Before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration had said pre-emptive military action was needed to strip former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's regime of its alleged weapons of mass destruction to ensure they were not passed to terrorists. Saddam insisted he had no such weapons.

Rumsfeld told CNN he was "not frustrated at all" by the failure of U.S. troops to locate the former Iraqi regime's alleged stockpiles of banned weapons.

"There are many teams of people out looking at the sites that we're aware of," Rumsfeld said. "But, as I say, I don't think we're going to just stumble over something. I think people are going to come up finally, and say, 'Here's what happened. Here's what they've done,' and already there are things that have been related to us that have been helpful."

Rumsfeld implied that ousted Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz is unlikely to be one of those information volunteers. The defense secretary said he saw a debriefing session with Aziz, who surrendered to U.S. authorities in Iraq last week.

"It was pretty clear that he was dissembling," Rumsfeld said.

Iraqi scientists being questioned by U.S. officials may prove to be more fruitful sources of information, he said. "As those reports come out, we'll know more," he said.

Powell backs off comments on Syria

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell on Sunday backed off comments he had made a day earlier that Syria has begun closing offices of groups that the United States considers terrorist organizations.

Speaking on ABC's "This Week," Powell said only that Syrian President Bashar Assad "said he was taking action to close down these offices and that he would restrict their ability to communicate."

But, Powell added, "it is not what he says, it's ... what actually happened, what actually happens on the ground. And what I said to him is that we would be watching, and we would measure performance over time to see whether Syria is prepared now to move in a new direction."

In a separate interview on NBC's "Meet the Press," Powell said the sites Assad promised to close include the Damascus offices of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. All are designated terrorist organizations by the United States and have claimed responsibilities for attacks that killed and wounded Americans.

On Saturday, following his meeting with Bashar in Damascus, Powell said Syria "did some closures; I expect them to do more."

But he told ABC that "an observation a few hours after our conversation might or might not be totally indicative of the action he plans to take." (Full story)

Other developments

• A U.S. soldier in northern Iraq died Saturday after an apparent accident involving his own weapon, U.S. Central Command announced Sunday. The incident happened in Kirkuk. The cause of the accident is still under investigation. No other details were available.

• The United States plans to pull more than half of its more than 130,000 troops out of Iraq by fall, a senior administration official said. Three of five divisions in the region should be home by then, the official said without providing specifics. A senior Defense Department official said Rumsfeld will meet in the next few weeks with European, NATO and other defense officials to assess their willingness to contribute troops to any force for the stabilization and reconstruction phase in Iraq.

• U.S.-led coalition forces are holding about 3,600 Iraqi prisoners of war, according to the U.S. Central Command.

CNN correspondents Chris Plante, Barbara Starr, Rym Brahimi and Chris Burns and CNN Madrid bureau chief Al Goodman 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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