Mobile Lab Might Be for Iraqi Arms; Evaluation Results Expected Soon
Byline: Bill Gertz, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
U.S. intelligence agencies are investigating a mobile laboratory discovered recently in northern Iraq that appears to be a transportable biological or chemical weapons facility, defense officials said.
Additionally, investigators in Iraq also have discovered what appear to be chemicals used in making chemical weapons, according to defense and intelligence officials.
The mobile lab was discovered near Mosul, in the north, last week and matches the description of Iraq's mobile weapons laboratories that were highlighted by senior Bush administration officials in the buildup to the war in Iraq.
Military forces manning a checkpoint seized the truck after discovering it was filled with equipment.
"It appears to be a road-mobile weapons laboratory," said a senior U.S. official on the condition of anonymity.
"It's still being evaluated," said a defense official, who noted that the results of the evaluation are expected soon.
The lab was described by officials as a tractor-trailer vehicle outfitted with equipment.
The Bush administration has held off from going public with the recent find because of several cases in which suspected weapons of mass destruction were found to have been unrelated to Iraq's chemical and biological weapons program.
Several drums of chemicals and other equipment, including buried shipping containers, turned out to have been harmless, even though initial tests showed signs of chemical or biological weapons.
The recent discovery of 12 55-gallon drums and suspected weapons labs near the town of Baiji turned out to be a decontamination facility and storage containers used for other purposes.
The Los Angeles Times first reported the van discovery on Tuesday.
Officials said the vehicle appears to be one of the 18 mobile laboratories mentioned by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell during a presentation to the United Nations Security Council before the war in Iraq.
One official said the mobile lab appeared not to have been put into use by the Iraqis.
However, officials said they were optimistic that the van could be the first proof of Iraq's covert weapons program. …