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British Troops Uncover Evidence of Iraqi Chemical Weapons - 2003-03-27

Senior British officials say their troops in southern Iraq have found more evidence that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein may be planning to use chemical weapons.

Officials showed a videotape of British soldiers in a captured Iraqi command center in the Rumeila oil fields area in southern Iraq, surrounded by what they said were more than 100 chemical protective suits, gas masks and related equipment.

Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon says the evidence is not conclusive, but he says the discovery indicates Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is prepared to use chemical weapons against coalition forces.

The British military chief of staff, Admiral Michael Boyce, says the Iraqi soldiers left the building in a hurry, leaving lots of equipment behind.

"This kit was effective, well cared for and in good working order," the admiral noted. "And we have to ask ourselves why Iraqi commanders felt that infantry in this part of Iraq should be issued with weapons of mass destruction equipment and protection."

Earlier, coalition forces found 200 chemical suits at a hospital being used as a command center in the southern city of Nasiriyah. The British officials say the coalition forces' most important job is to deny Iraq the ability to use weapons of mass destruction.