Danish army: Iraqi shells WMD-free.

Mortar shells found in Iraq and believed to be suspicious in fact contained no chemical agents, the Danish army said after a week of tests.

The 36 shells, found 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of the city of Qurnah in southern Iraq on January 9, had initially been thought by Danish and British troops to contain a blister agent.

But further tests carried out in southern Iraq and the United States were negative, the Danish army said in a statement on Sunday, The Associated Press reported.

It was unclear why the initial field tests were wrong, the Danish army said from its headquarters in Karup, 265 km northwest of Copenhagen.

"The Danish Army Operational Command will now investigate what could be the cause to this," the statement said. It added that the testing kits would be sent to Denmark for examination.

U.S. Army officials had said the 120 mm shells, which are at least 10 years old, was surplus from the Iran-Iraq war in the mid-1980s. Blister agents are used in chemical weapons.

Several hundred Danish soldiers are working with a British-led multinational force responsible for security in southern Iraq.

Both the U.S. and British governments cited the threat of illicit weapons of mass destruction as a main reason for launching the Iraq war. However, no such weapons have been found so far.

The U.S. pulled 400 weapons-disposal experts from Iraq this month in what The New York Times called "a sign that [the] administration might have lowered its sights." The move raised suspicions that weapons are unlikely to be found.

The White House played down the move, saying the group focused on hunting weapons was remaining in Iraq.

[Source: CNN, NY, 18Jan04]

War in Iraq

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