Mon, May 12, 2003 - Page 6 News List

Rewards for Iraqis who rat out alleged weapons programs

AP , BAGHDAD

US authorities have promised rewards to Iraqis for information leading to discovery of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons programs, the US-run Information Radio said.

The reward announcement comes as the US military teams have so far been unable to find solid evidence of Iraqi projects for weapons on mass destruction. The suspected presence of such weapons was the prime reason cited by the Bush administration for launching the war against Iraq.

Besides the unspecified reward, potential informants were offered anonymity and guarantees of safety in exchange for useful information "regarding any site that manufactured or held weapons of mass destruction."

The lengthy spot on the Arabic-language radio was part of a growing US government campaign to find Iraqi sources potentially knowledgeable about prohibited arms programs.

From November to March, UN weapons teams conducted more than 700 surprise inspections at hundreds of Iraqi sites, and did not report finding any weapons-making programs. A US military unit of experts in unconventional arms that followed invading US troops into Iraq in March, has surveyed 75 of 90 high-priority sites, and thus far also has not reported conclusive evidence of such programs.

The difficulty in finding any banned weapons now threatens US and British plans to end UN sanctions against Iraq. Russian diplomats have said they need to see conclusive evidence that such programs have been eliminated before approving the lifting of the 13-year sanctions regime, and President Vladimir Putin has even raised the possibility that former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein could still be alive and in possession of the deadly weapons.

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