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US Withdraws Some Weapons Experts From Iraq - 2004-01-08


The White House is downplaying a report that the United States has quietly withdrawn a large military team from Iraq that was part of the search for weapons of mass destruction.

Some U.S. military officials cited by the New York Times suggested the 400-member team's withdrawal could be a sign the United States no longer expects to find chemical or biological weapons in Iraq.

President Bush cited Iraq's weapons of mass destruction as a primary reason for going to war.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters (today/Thursday) that even though one team is leaving, a special group focused on hunting for illegal weapons remains in Iraq.

Meanwhile, a report by the Carnegie Endowment for Peace -- an influential Washington think tank -- says the Bush administration exaggerated Iraq's weapons threat.

The report, released today (Thursday), says Iraq's nuclear program had been suspended for many years, and U.N. inspections and sanctions had effectively destroyed Iraq's large-scale chemical weapon production capabilities.

Responding to the report, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell defended the administration's position, arguing Iraq presented a danger that could not be ignored.

He said the intelligence services of other nations as well as the United Nations agreed. Mr. Powell says he stands by the information on the Iraqi threat that he presented last year to the United Nations.

information for this report is provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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