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Iraq's Weapons Hunt

September 26, 2004|From Associated Press

BAGHDAD — After 16 months of U.S. weapons searches, only a single chemical weapon has turned up in Iraq, and it was found not by American experts, but by an apparently unwitting Iraqi resistance.

The insurgents in May rigged an old artillery shell as a roadside bomb in Baghdad, seemingly unaware that it was loaded with sarin. After it detonated, injuring no one, two U.S. soldiers handling remnants suffered symptoms of low-level nerve-agent exposure.

A few other old munitions showed traces of chemical agent. An artillery shell discovered in May on a Baghdad street was found to have once held mustard. In July, Polish troops in central Iraq paid an undisclosed sum to an informant for 17 small rocket warheads and two mortar shells they said showed traces of sarin. The U.S. military later said only two of the rockets tested positive.

In arguing for war in 2003, the Bush administration asserted that Iraq had 100 to 500 tons of chemical weapons.

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