Tests Cast Doubt on Chemical Find in Iraq
BAIJI, Iraq (AP) - A metal drum found in northern Iraq that initially tested positive for nerve and blister agents might instead contain rocket fuel, according to new tests, a U.S. chemical weapons expert said Monday.
Novikov's (Lt. Col. Valentin Novikov, the chief chemical weapons officer of the 4th Infantry Division) comments raised the prospect that the discovery was the latest in a series of false alarms as U.S. troops try to find the remains of Saddam Hussein's suspected programs for biological, chemical and nuclear weapons.
The suspicious barrel was among 14 barrels found in an open field near the Tigris River town of Baiji, among mounds of earth that hid missiles and missile parts. U.S. troops performed an initial test and found indications the barrel may contain the nerve agent cyclosarin and a blister agent that could be a precursor of mustard gas.
... pre-initially it was thought that the barrel might contain material that finds its way into "Big Macs". This conjecture was dismissed on the basis that even Saddam could not have been that malevolent.
By design, initial test procedures favor positive readings, erring on the side of caution to protect soldiers.
... and to give the Administration a little testosterone rush.
Two teams of experts were brought in this weekend for additional testing.
... when Monday rolled around both teams had failed dismally. The first team could not recite its times tables and the second had connected a false positive to a true negative and still couldn't jump start the jeep.
One team conducted three tests, but the tests "were not totally conclusive," Novikov said.
... Novikov intends bringing in a team that can count beyond three and which can jump to any conclusion the Pentagon demands.
The second team, a specialist Mobile Exploitation Team, "suspects that it might be rocket fuel," Novikov said.
"... and some of the lads have been partaking of it a bit too liberally."
That team is expected to return to the site in the coming days for further tests.
The head of the team is to be replaced by a close
Before leaving Washington for
Blair warns against 'crowing' about absence of WMDs
"We currently have a team of researchers working around the clock
Mr Blair says stabilising Iraq and providing humanitarian aid are still the priorities, not the search for weapons of mass destruction.
"Much like our priorities were before the war, if I'm not mistaken. Does my nose look big in that, Gepetto?"
Potential sites have been identified to be searched and the Prime Minister all but said the weapons have been found. Mr Blair says there will be "independent verification" of any finds according to a mechanism yet to be agreed upon.
Likewise the Prime Minister all but said that his wife was a woman of excellent character and judgment. Potential sites have been identified to be searched ... pockets, handbags, etc ... and T-shirts, knits, polo shirts, shorts, bags, jackets, mini-skirts, belts, jeans, sweaters, hoodies, knits and underwear, books, an alarm clock, necklaces, socks, a lunchbox, pyjamas, boxer shorts, a beach play set and pillow cases would undergo "independent verification".