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Apparent Bio-Weapons Lab Found

U.S. Troops, Iraq War, Chemical Weapons, Baghdad, Hussein, Saddam
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U.S. officials are now confident they have confirmed at least one of the claims Secretary of State Colin Powell made to the U.N. about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. It's a van found in northern Iraq which closely resembles drawings Powell presented to the U.N. and which Iraqi scientists said was part of a mobile biological weapons lab.

The van contains fermenting vats like those used in the first stage of producing biological weapons. But they were washed down with a caustic cleaner, so there were no traces of biological material.

The U.S. still has not found any chemical or biological agents and some officials are starting to suggest there might not be any, just the equipment needed to manufacture them, reports CBS News Correspondent David Martin.

The latest pickup in the deck of 55 most wanted former Iraqi leaders could help. She is Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash, a microbiologist known to U.S. officials as "Mrs. Anthrax" for her suspected involvement in Iraq's biological weapons program.

In other developments:

  • The American civil administrator in Iraq says the nucleus of an Iraqi government should be in place within two weeks. Retired Lt. Gen Jay Garner said an Iraqi leadership council with up to nine members will be formed by mid-May.
  • In the city of Mosul, rival groups chose a mayor and a city council in Iraq's first free elections.
  • Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, asked the U.S. to let him investigate reports of looting at Iraqi nuclear sites. U.S. officials have not yet responded to the request.
  • Iraqis dug up 72 bodies over the weekend from a mass grave about 13 miles northwest of Najaf. They said the grave was filled with bodies of people executed after a failed Shiite uprising against Saddam Hussein in 1991.
  • The U.N.'s World Food Program estimated most families have only enough food to last until the end of the month. The WFP is rushing flour, rice and beans to the country, hoping to head off a disaster.
  • Britain reopened what used to be its Baghdad embassy on Monday, saying it was the first country that evacuated diplomats before the 1991 Gulf War to re-establish a permanent presence in post-war Iraq.
  • A soldier from the Army's 1st Armored Division died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound in Kuwait early Monday, U.S. Central Command said. Another soldier died of a gunshot wound after an apparent accident involving his own weapon in northern Iraq.

    With Ammash's detention, 19 of the most-wanted 55 Iraqis have been reported captured. She is the only woman on the most-wanted list.

    Now she's claiming she wants to cooperate, but so far all the captured members of the top 55 are sticking to their story that Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction.

    U.S. officials are counting on lower-ranking scientists and mountains of captured documents to reveal the truth.

    "We're going to have to find people not at the very senior level who are vulnerable, obviously, if they're in custody, but it will be people down below who had been involved in one way or another," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Sunday.

    Asked if any of these lower-level officials are cooperating, Rumsfeld said: "Are they telling us something substantive? We don't have anything substantive to announce at the present time."

    Along the way, officials say, investigators are coming across evidence Iraq was making large payments to movers and shakers in other countries- most notably France – in an effort to influence government policy. That's not necessarily illegal, but if true it should prove embarrassing.

    U.S. intelligence officials said that Ammash, 49, is believed to have played a key role in rebuilding Baghdad's biological weapons capability since the first Persian Gulf War in 1991.

    She was born in 1953 in Baghdad, and her father was Salih Magdi Ammash, a former vice president, defense minister and member of the Baath Party's leadership. Saddam Hussein reportedly ordered his execution in 1983.

    In 2001, Ammash became the first and only woman elected to the highest policymaking body in the Baath Party, the regional command, after working closely with Saddam's youngest son, Qusai.

    Ammash was trained by Nassir al-Hindawi, described by U.N. inspectors as the father of Iraq's biological weapons program, officials said.

    She has served as president of Iraqi's microbiology society and as a dean at the University of Baghdad.

    American officials say Ammash is among a new generation of leaders named by Saddam to leading posts within Iraq's Baath party. The Pentagon lists her as the party's Youth and Trade Bureau Chairman. She played a role in organizing Baath activities in Jordan, Lebanon and Yemen, officials said.

    Ammash received her undergraduate degree at the University of Baghdad, master of science in microbiology from Texas Woman's University, in Denton, Texas, and received a doctorate in microbiology from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 1983.

    In one of several videos of Saddam released during the war, Ammash was the only woman among about a half-dozen men seated around a table. The videos were used as Iraqi propaganda as invading forces drew closer to Baghdad, and it was not known when the meeting happened or what was the significance of her presence there.