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Iraq Warns Residents Against Picking Up US Leaflets - 2003-02-26

Authorities in Baghdad are using a new scare tactic in an effort to dissuade Iraqi civilians from picking up information leaflets being dropped by U.S. led coalition aircraft.

Pentagon officials tell VOA Iraqi authorities are warning residents throughout the southern part of the country that the leaflets being dropped by coalition aircraft are treated with a deadly chemical and should not be touched.

To underscore the claim, U.S. officials say the Iraqis are dispatching personnel in what appear to be protective chemical suits to collect the leaflets.

U.S. officials deny that the hundreds of thousands of leaflets that have been dropped in recent weeks throughout southern Iraq are anything other than mere pieces of paper with information printed on them.

Ironically, the latest batch, dropped this week near Basra and several other cities, warn Iraqi troops not to use weapons of mass destruction. The leaflets say any military unit that chooses to use chemical or biological weapons will face what is termed "swift and severe retribution" from coalition forces.

The leaflets also warn that Iraqi commanders will be held personally accountable for the use of weapons of mass destruction, an indication they would face trial for war crimes following any war.