In Iraq — an intense search for conclusive evidence of an Iraqi chemical and biological weapons program continues – U.S. officials are now examining a trailer truck that could be a mobile laboratory for such weapons. The vehicle is currently in Mosul - being examined and tested by specialists.
In Washington, a U.S. Defense official says the trailer appears to have been used for biological weapons production. He says experts have not found another plausible use for the truck – based on the equipment on board. Earlier Wednesday the Commander of U.S. Army troops in Iraq says coalition forces have collected what he calls “plenty of evidence” that the ousted Saddam Hussein regime had an active weapons of mass destruction program. Amy Katz has more on that and other developments on the reconstruction of Iraq.
Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon Wednesday – via satellite from Baghdad - Lieutenant General William Wallace said experts are sifting through information that has already been collected on a possible Iraqi weapons of mass destruction program.
LT. GEN. WILLIAM WALLACE, COMMANDER U.S. ARMY 5TH CORPS
“We’ve collected evidence, much of it documentary evidence, that suggests there was an active program. It’s taken a while, as you might expect, to sort through the documentary evidence. A lot of the information that we’re getting is coming from low-tier Iraqis who had some knowledge of the program, but not full knowledge of the program, and it’s just taken us a while to sort through all of that.”
Meanwhile, in Baghdad Wednesday, about 200 Iraqi physicians took to the streets to protest what they are calling the deteriorating Iraqi health system and the U.S. choice to lead Iraq’s Health Ministry. They denounced the appointment of Ali Shinan because they say he has close ties to the ousted Saddam Hussein regime. It was one example of frustration across Iraq as the U.S. allows many former Ba’ath party officials to return to high-ranking posts. These Iraqis contend new leadership should exclude officials of the fallen regime.
One such official on the U.S. most wanted list Ghazi Hammud al-Ubaydi was captured Wednesday. The Ba’ath regional chairman in the Kut district is now in U.S. custody.
Also on Wednesday the World Health Organization warned of a possible epidemic of cholera in the southern Iraqi city of Basra where 17 cases of the disease have already been discovered. The W.H.O. says it fears there may be hundreds more suffering from cholera which can be fatal if untreated. The W.H.O. has sent experts to Basra to evaluate the outbreak which it blames on accumulating garbage and a lack of clean drinking water.
At the same time, there were signs of things returning to normal in some parts of Iraq. In Baghdad the formal opening of the first functioning post office.
And, the second weekly train left the Baghdad station for Basra.
Throughout Iraq Wednesday, the U.S. Army distributed free gasoline in an effort to put an end to a flourishing black market until the U.S. Army can get Iraqi fuel pumps repaired.
NATURAL SOUND (ALLEGED SADDAM TAPE - IN ARABIC)
Another development - this audiotape which was given to an Australian newspaper reporter in Baghdad – allegedly the voice of Saddam Hussein. The reporter - Ed O’Loughlan - says someone who said he was unable to get the tape to the Arab television network Al Jazeera gave him the tape. The speaker who claims to be Saddam, says he is still in Iraq and urges all Iraqis to face what he calls “the invaders” and to kick the “enemy” out of the country.
U.S. officials say the tape is being analyzed but they have not been able to confirm whether the voice really is that of the former Iraqi leader.