U.S. pulls from Iraq team hunting arms

January 08, 2004|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration has quietly withdrawn from Iraq a 400-member military team whose job was to scour the country for military equipment, according to senior government officials.

The step was described by some military officials as a sign that the administration might have lowered its sights and no longer expects to uncover the caches of chemical and biological weapons that the White House cited as a principal reason for going to war last March.

A separate military team that specializes in disposing of chemical and biological weapons remains part of the 1,400-member Iraq Survey Group, which has been searching Iraq for more that seven months at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars.

But that team is "still waiting for something to dispose of," said a survey group member.

Some of the government officials said the most important evidence from the weapons hunt might be contained in a vast collection of seized Iraqi documents being stored in a secret military warehouse in Qatar. Only a small fraction have been translated.

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