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Defense of intelligence that led to war goes on

By Times Wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 14, 2003

WASHINGTON - The White House on Friday stood by President Bush's assertion that Iraq has sought uranium in Africa in recent years, saying that his allegation in January was supported by more evidence than a series of letters now known to have been forged.

"Those documents were only one piece of evidence in a larger body of evidence suggesting that Iraq attempted to purchase uranium from Africa," said Sean McCormack, a spokesman for the National Security Council. "The issue of Iraq's pursuit of uranium in Africa is supported by multiple sources of intelligence. The other sources of evidence did and do support the president's statement."

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Colin Powell, in an interview with the Associated Press, said the intelligence around which the United States built its arguments for war in Iraq "isn't a figment of somebody's imagination."

When U.S. and British teams finish their searches of suspected weapons hiding places, their interviews with knowledgeable Iraqis and their exhaustive review of documents, "it will lead us not only, we believe, to weapons that may exist, but to the programs themselves," Powell said.

Finally, the Los Angeles Times reported that the CIA has reassigned two senior officials who oversaw its analysis on Iraq.

One of the officials was reassigned last week to the CIA's personnel department after spending the past several months heading the Iraq Task Force, a special unit set up to provide 24-hour support to military commanders during the war.

The other, a longtime analyst who had led the agency's Iraq Issue Group, was dispatched on an extended mission to Iraq. The group is responsible for the core analysis of all the intelligence the United States collects on Iraq.

CIA spokesman Bill Harlow said Friday that the changes were routine and that it is "absolutely wrong to think this is somehow punitive or negative or indicative of anything other than a normal rotation." Citing security concerns, he asked that neither employee be identified by name.

In Iraq, hunt for weapons goes on

U.S. forces in Iraq are checking out sites identified by captured Iraqis as possibly holding biological or chemical weapons, the commander of American ground troops said Friday.

Lt. Gen. David McKiernan and Pentagon officials said they had no confirmed discoveries of chemical or biological weapons to announce. But the general said he was confident weapons of mass destruction eventually would be found.

Information on chemical and biological weapons is rare because so few Iraqis were involved in those programs, McKiernan told Pentagon reporters over a video link from Baghdad. He said, however, that questioning of some Iraqi officials has been fruitful.

Another letter attributed to Hussein

A letter purportedly written by deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is warning foreigners to leave Iraq or face death.

A copy of the three-page letter, sent to the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper and made available to the Associated Press, warned that a new stage in the Iraqi "resistance" to the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq was about to begin.

"We tell the countries of the world to remove your citizens from Iraq (as) we are in a liberation struggle. If you do not do this then you will be responsible for their lives," the June 12 dated letter said.

3 airlines get okay to fly into Iraq

The government on Friday gave initial permission to three airlines to begin scheduled flights between the United States and Iraq, saying air service can help reconstruct the war-torn country.

The airlines - World Airways, Northwest Airlines and Kalitta Air - still need approvals from several government agencies. The Transportation Security Administration, for example, must make sure that security is adequate at Iraqi airports.

Baghdad International Airport has yet to open for scheduled service.

Coalition soldier found dead in lake

BAGHDAD, Iraq - A coalition soldier was found dead in a lake at a military compound near the town of Fallujah Friday, the U.S. military said.

The soldier, whose identity is being withheld pending notification of relatives, had been reported missing since Thursday and had been swimming.

A search was undertaken after fellow soldiers found some of the soldier's belongings and clothing at the edge of the lake.

Iraqis protest Americans in mosque

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Around 200 Iraqis rallied Friday in downtown Baghdad to protest U.S. soldiers entering a mosque, claiming the troops mistreated worshipers and took money.

U.S. military spokesmen contacted in Baghdad and at Central Command headquarters in Tampa, said they had no information about the alleged incident at the Hotfaifa bin al-Yaman Mosque on Thursday.

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