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US operations yield data on Iraqi weapons

The US has obtained new information on Iraq's alleged biological and chemical weapons programmes in recent days, a media report said.

india Updated: Mar 20, 2003 12:59 IST

The Bush administration has obtained potentially valuable new information on Iraq's alleged biological and chemical weapons programmes in recent days from scientists and intelligence agents confronted outside Iraq,

The Washington Post

reported on Thursday.

Citing two unnamed US officials with direct knowledge of the operation, the newspaper said that in recent weeks, US and allied intelligence services summoned scores of Iraqi operatives in foreign capitals to present them with a stark choice.

They were told they could either switch sides or face unpleasant consequences when Baghdad fell to US troops, the report said.

The US State Department announced on March 6 that it had asked 60 friendly governments to expel alleged Iraqi intelligence operatives who lived abroad under diplomatic or commercial cover.

But behind the announcement was Operation Imminent Horizon, in which the Iraqis were pressured to provide information about their country's weapons programmes and operational plans, The Post said.

Among the nations that helped with the expulsions and recruiting efforts were Romania, Hungary, Australia and Sweden, according to the paper.

The US Defence Department is racing to integrate the new information into an extremely risky and ambitious disarmament mission, the report said.

The quality of intelligence on Iraqi chemical, biological or nuclear weapons could not only determine the threats facing US troops on the battlefield in the days ahead, but also could help the world conclude whether the US-led war was necessary, according to The Post.

Bush launched the war on Iraq late Wednesday, with US Navy ships firing cruise missiles as part of a "limited" first strike.

First Published: Mar 20, 2003 12:25 IST