US claims to find materials, equipment related to chemical arms; Rumsfeld: No plans for long-term militay presence
U.S. weapons experts in Iraq have discovered ingredients and equipment that can be used to make a chemical weapon, U.S. military officials confirmed.
The discovery south of Baghdad was made several days ago with the help of an Iraqi scientist who claimed to have worked in Saddam Hussein's chemical weapons program.
In addition, the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television broadcast images Tuesday morning of warheads in Baghdad armed with what appears to be biological material.
The words "Do not touch" could be seen on the warheads, which were reportedly found in a residential building in the heart of Baghdad that belongs to senior officials in Saddam's regime.
Meanwhile, the U.S. military officials, involved in the weapons hunt and based at Camp Doha in Kuwait, refused to name the scientist or identify the material that had been buried in the ground. Many chemical weapons ingredients have non-military purposes and officials cautioned that the findings, which are being analyzed, do not confirm the presence of chemical weapons at that site.
Meanwhile, US Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Monday the Pentagon has no interest in keeping U.S. military forces in Iraq longer than it takes to stabilize the country.
Rumsfeld denied a news report that the United States was planning a long-term military relationship with Iraq that would grant American access to air bases in Baghdad and elsewhere in the country. "It's flat false," he said, adding that the subject had not even been raised with him.
"The likelihood of it seems to me to be so low that it does not surprise me that it's never been discussed in my presence, to my knowledge," he told a Pentagon news conference. "Why do I say it's low? Well, we've got all kinds of options and opportunities in that part of the world to locate forces. It's not like we need a new place. We have plenty of friends" in that area.
Rumsfeld was responding to questions about remarks in Sunday's New York Times attributed to senior administration officials.
Rumsfeld said he could not speculate about a future U.S. military relationship with Iraq because there is no Iraqi government to discuss it with. He did say, however, that the future U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf region is going to be considered once the Iraq war is over.
Rumsfeld said he worried that reports of a possible long-term U.S. military presence in Iraq give the mistaken impression to Iraqis that the United States had a hidden agenda for the war.
"Any impression that is left ... that the United States plans some sort of a permanent presence in that country, I think is a signal to the people of that country that's inaccurate and unfortunate, because we don't plan to function as an occupier," he said.
Although no decisions have been made, Rumsfeld said it was possible over the long term that the United States would withdraw some forces from the Persian Gulf region rather than add some in Iraq.
"I would personally say that a friendly Iraq that is not led by a Saddam Hussein (news - web sites) would be a reason we could have fewer forces in the region, rather than more. I mean, just logically," he said.
He asserted that because there is sporadic, small-scale fighting still going on in some parts of Iraq, the war is not over and it's too soon to know when it will be safe for U.S. troops to leave. (Albawaba.com)
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)