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Suspect chemical war camp found

Rumsfeld, left, shakes hands with Shevardnadze
Rumsfeld, left, shakes hands with Shevardnadze  

KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Material from a suspected chemical, biological and nuclear weapons center within southern Afghanistan is being examined, according to U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Claiming it as a "significant" find, Rumsfeld told reporters that the Tarnak Farms site is about five kilometers east of Camp Rhino marine base near Kandahar.

Rumsfeld spoke about the development before he made a surprise visit to Afghanistan Sunday as part of a hopscotch visit to countries in central Asia.

A good deal of material documentation and other items were found, Rumsfeld said, adding the "take was large and significant, and we might find something interesting."

First Afghan visit

Rumsfeld's visit to Afghanistan was taking place as the U. S. and allied forces undertook what appeared to be the concluding attacks of the anti-terror campaign.

It was to be the first visit to Afghanistan by the man who has been a prime force behind the U.S. drive against terrorist suspect Osama bin Laden and the fundamentalist Taliban rulers who sponsored him.

American forces at Bagram air base distributed holiday cakes on Sunday to Afghans to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, the festival that marks the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan.

Rumsfeld met with incoming Afghan president Hamid Karzai, and was to meet later with defense minister Gen. Mohamed Qasim Fahim, and U.S. ambassador James Dobbins.

His Afghan visit comes after a lightning tour of three countries in the Caucasus Saturday, offering closer military relations in return for their help in the U.S. war on terrorism.

In one day, he met the leaders of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia. The former Soviet republics have offered Washington use of their airspace for the Afghan campaign.

Tora Bora bombing

Rumsfeld's Afghan visit occurs as intense fighting is reported Sunday in Tora Bora, where al Qaeda troops are fighting, possibly in an effort to protect bin Laden, who is believed to be in the area.

Bombing at the Tora Bora area has been so intense that the plume from one cave traveled two kilometers, indicating the large amount of ordnance at the location, Rumsfeld said.

The United States and its allies are finding more openings to caves all the time, the U.S. defense secretary said.

"We do believe it's going to be difficult (for Al Qaeda) to get out of there, not impossible but difficult," he said.

As far as the location of bin Laden is concerned, Rumsfeld said: "We'll have to wait and see where he is. We found nothing that is discouraging. We continue to receive mixed messages."

-- CNN Correspondents Jamie McIntyre, Nic Robertson, Brent Sadler, David Ensor and Ben Wedeman contributed to this report


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