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Iraq Transition

U.S. study: Iraq likely didn't ship WMD to Syria

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Officials say U.S. troops in Iraq nearly captured Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- It is unlikely Iraq shipped banned weapons material into Syria before the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, according to report released by the Iraq Survey Group, a CIA/Pentagon team searching for Iraqi weapons programs.

In October, the group said that the 1991 Persian Gulf War likely destroyed Iraq's capabilities of producing weapons of mass destruction and that Iraq had none when the United States invaded. (Full story)

After the October report, Vice President Dick Cheney and other U.S. officials said they believed Iraq possessed such material before the war and had moved it across the border into Syria, where the weapons may have been transferred to terrorists.

Addenda to the group's final report -- released Monday on the U.S. Government Printing Office's Web site -- threw doubt on that scenario.

"ISG judged that it was unlikely that an official transfer of WMD material from Iraq to Syria took place," the report said.

The group also said it had been unable to complete its investigation because of security concerns and couldn't rule out an "unofficial" transfer of material.

The report said that 12 years of international sanctions against Baghdad after the Gulf War had left Iraq's scientific community decimated and these experts' skills in a state of "natural decay."

The group added it was unlikely that scientists were capable of re-creating the destroyed weapons programs, meaning Iraq would have possessed little, if anything, to transfer.

"It is worth noting that even if ISG had been able to fully examine all the leads it possessed, it is unlikely that conclusive information would have been found," the report said.

Instead, the report said, detainees interviewed by the group "uniformly denied any knowledge of residual WMD that could have been secreted to Syria."

Charles Duefler, head of the Iraq Survey Group, recommended that many of the detained scientists could be released because they had been cooperative, were no longer a security risk and had no more information to share.

Near-miss on al-Zarqawi?

U.S. troops in Iraq nearly captured Jordanian-born militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi earlier this year, American officials said Monday.

In February, U.S. troops were tipped off that al-Zarqawi might be in the Ramadi area, west of Falluja and Baghdad, sources said.

At one point, troops chased down a suspicious vehicle, later determining the insurgent leader had been in it but had managed to escape, officials said.

A lieutenant of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was seized from the vehicle, two sources said.

The sources said a computer also was found with a treasure trove of information, including direct connections to bin Laden.

The sources said the find indicates al-Zarqawi and bin Laden are communicating and that couriers for the al Qaeda leader are able to get into Iraq.

Last year, al-Zarqawi pledged his allegiance to bin Laden, who later praised the insurgent leader's work against U.S.-led coalition troops in Iraq.

Al-Zarqawi and his group -- called al Qaeda in Iraq -- is blamed for dozens of attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces as well as beheadings of Western hostages. (Full story)

Other developments

  • An American soldier with Task Force Liberty died Tuesday after being injured in a vehicle accident near Muqdadiyah, about 60 miles (97 kilometers) northeast of Baghdad, the U.S. military said. The number of U.S. troops killed in the Iraq war is 1,572, according to the military.
  • A former Wall Street trader who rejoined the Marines after the September 11, 2001, attacks is scheduled for a military preliminary hearing Tuesday in the shooting deaths of two Iraqis last year. (Full story)
  • Iraqi President Jalal Talabani met briefly Tuesday with Prime Minister-designate Ibrahim al-Jaafari for an update on progress in putting together a list of Cabinet members in the new government. Al-Jaafari didn't submit a draft proposal of the Cabinet members, said a spokesman in Talabani's office.
  • Concerned about an uptick in violence and a May deadline for a new Iraqi government, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Vice President Dick Cheney have reached out to Iraqi leaders in recent days to accelerate the decision-making process, U.S. officials said Monday. (Full story)
  • CNN's Barbara Starr contributed to this report.

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