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U.S. Wraps Up Search for Banned Weapons in Iraq
Wed Jan 12, 2005 01:22 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. force that scoured Iraq for weapons of mass destruction has abandoned its long and fruitless hunt and is assisting in the more immediate task of counter-insurgency efforts, U.S. officials said on Wednesday.

President Bush and other U.S. officials cited the grave threat posed by Iraq's chemical and biological weapons and Baghdad's efforts to acquire a nuclear arms capability as a central justification for the March 2003 invasion of Iraq. No such weapons have been found.

The 1,700-strong Iraq Survey Group, responsible for the hunt, last month wrapped up physical searches for weapons of mass destruction, and its mission is now refocused on gathering information to help U.S. forces in Iraq win a bloody guerrilla war, officials said.

"You can only search so many places for WMD," said a defense official, who added that the ISG continues to review documents and interview people knowledgeable about deposed President Saddam Hussein's arms programs for possible leads.

Charles Duelfer, the CIA special adviser who led the ISG's weapons search, has returned home and is expected next month to issue a final addendum to his September report concluding that prewar Iraq had no WMD stockpiles, officials said.

"While the actual physical search is over for all intents and purposes, it's not closed in the sense that while this (document exploitation) operation continues ... if they stumble upon something in the course of that effort that says the stash is there, they are certainly going to run out there and look for it," said another U.S. official.

The U.S. official, who asked not to be named, added that the team that had conducted the actual physical search was back home.

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