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U.S. Offers Rewards for Iraqi Information

U.S. Offers Rewards for Iraqi Information

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- The United States is offering rewards to Iraqis who provide information about government officials and weapons of mass destruction, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Wednesday.

"We're asking people to come forward and help in this effort," Rumsfeld said at a Pentagon news conference. "Rewards are available to those who help us prevent the disappearance of personnel, documentation and materials."

Rumsfeld did not say how much money the Americans were offering. Similar bounties remain posted for top figures in the fight against terrorism, such as $25 million for information leading to Osama bin Laden.

In Iraq, a major focus is on Saddam Hussein's chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs. Those involved with those programs could face "carrots and sticks," Rumsfeld said -- rewards for helping the United States, punishment if they refuse.

"Just to have the opportunity for people to improve their lives and get off a blacklist is important," he said.

Ridding Iraq of weapons of mass destruction is a prime goal of the war. U.S. officials have not announced finding any chemical or biological weapons, although testing is under way on samples from a suspected chemical weapons storage site found near Hindaniyah in south-central Iraq.

Rumsfeld and other U.S. officials have said they do not expect to find much evidence of banned weapons until Saddam's government is clearly out of power and Iraqis no longer fear the consequences of speaking out.

"We still must find out everything we can about how the Iraqi regime acquired its capabilities and the proliferation that took place by countries in the industrialized world," Rumsfeld said. "We need to locate Iraqi scientists with knowledge of these programs."

American officials also are interested in clues to the identities and whereabouts of members of Saddam's Baath Party, Iraqi intelligence agents and other Saddam loyalists.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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