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While officials are not yet calling it “the smoking gun,” a mobile laboratory found in northern Iraq is believed to have produced biological agents, according to the Pentagon.
“The experts have been through it,” said Stephen Cambone, undersecretary for intelligence. “And they have not found another plausible use for it, based on the equipment on board, the configuration, what they can divine of the process by which it works.”
The alleged factory of deadly agents was found near Mosul April 19.
“It was painted in a military color scheme and found on a heavy equipment transporter that is typically used to carry tanks,” said Cambone.
It contained fermenting devices often used to make germ weapons, but it had been scoured clean with a caustic substance such as ammonia or bleach.
More testing of the vehicle will be done, as officials try to determine whether or not Iraq had the weapons of mass destruction President Bush cited as a primary reason for the U.S.-led invasion.
“We are poring through documents, we are talking to people, and more of this is going to come to the surface as time goes by. It is a tough, laborious process,” said Cambone. “I think we’re going to find that they had a weapons of mass destruction program.”
Other suspected labs have been found by coalition forces, but all to date are inconclusive regarding any sinister use, as vaccines or fertilizer may have been manufactured instead of weapons.
“While some of the equipment on the trailer could have been used for purposes other than biological-weapons agent production, U.S. and UK technical experts have concluded that the unit does not appear to perform any function beyond … the production of biological agents,” said Cambone.
He said the trailer was similar to what was described by Secretary of State Colin Powell during his February speech to the U.N. An Iraqi source who helped design such facilities had provided the U.S. with information about the labs.
“He was even knowledgeable of the death of a number of people who had been working on such a facility,” said Cambone.
Thus far, technical experts have visited some 110 of 640 sites identified in Iraq as potentially related to WMD, and the search team that now stands at 600 will grow to 2,100 at the end of this month.
American agencies like the CIA and FBI will be joined by experts from states that helped topple Saddam Hussein’s regime.