US weapons hunters find no evidence Iraq had smallpox.
Top American scientists assigned to the weapons hunt in Iraq found no evidence Saddam Hussein's regime was making or stockpiling smallpox, The Associated Press has learned from senior military officers involved in the search.
Smallpox fears were part of the case the Bush administration used to build support for invading Iraq and they were raised again as recently as last weekend by Vice President Dick Cheney.
But a three-month search by "Team Pox" turned up only signs to the contrary: disabled equipment that had been rendered harmless by UN inspectors, Iraqi scientists deemed credible who gave no indication they had worked with smallpox, and a laboratory thought to be back in use that was covered in cobwebs.
Fears that smallpox could be used as a weapon led the Bush administration to launch a vaccination campaign for some 500,000 US military personnel after the September 11 attacks, and to order enough vaccine to inoculate the entire US population if necessary.
President George W Bush also was vaccinated against the disease, which kills about a third of its victims.
The negative smallpox findings reported to US intelligence agencies come nearly six months after the Bush administration went to war to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction that Saddam long denied having and that the US military hasn't been able to find.
[Source: Hindus Times, Delhi, Ind, 19Sep03]
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