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US Won't Send Team to Iraq to Investigate Missing Pilot - 2002-07-11

The Bush administration has turned down Iraq's offer to receive U.S. investigators to look into the fate of a missing Gulf War pilot.

Instead, the United States will send Baghdad a diplomatic note asking whether Iraq intends to provide new information about the pilot, Lieutenant Commander Scott Speicher. He has been missing since his Navy F/A-18 Hornet was shot down over Iraq on January 17, 1991, the first night of the Gulf war.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld agreed with Secretary of State Colin Powell on the U.S. course of action. Mr. Rumsfeld said a diplomatic note sent through the International Committee of the Red Cross in Switzerland is the best way to see if Iraq intends to help.

U.S. officials say they may propose a meeting in Geneva if Iraq shows it is willing to provide new information on the Speicher case.

The Defense Department initially listed Commander Speicher as killed in action, but last year changed his status to missing in action amid reports he may still be alive and is being held captive.

In March, Baghdad invited the United States to send U.S.investigators to Iraq to look into the pilot's fate. Iraq has said Commander Speicher was killed in the crash and ridiculed suggestions he may be a captive.