SLUG: 2-293229 US-Iraq (s&l)
TITLE=U-S IRAQ (S/L)
INTRO: U-S officials say the United States recently considered mounting a covert attack on a target in Northern Iraq where Bush administration officials believed a radical Kurdish group may have been testing deadly chemical weapons. Correspondent Nick Simeone reports.
TEXT: Administration officials tell reporters the Pentagon recently considered a secret military attack against the small Islamic Kurdish group known as Ansar al-Islam, operating in Iraq's northern no-fly zone and outside territory controlled by President Saddam.
It was there that U-S officials say they believed the group appeared to be experimenting with deadly chemical or biological agents tests similar to those recorded on video by Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network in Afghanistan and obtained by C-N-N.
On those tapes, a dog appears to be suffering an agonizing death shortly after a poisonous substance is released.
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It's unclear what motive the Iraqi group might have had for experimenting with poison gas but a U-S official tells the Associated Press some of its members trained in camps in Afghanistan and were in contact with al-Qaida.
Early in the war in Afghanistan, coalition troops found manuals for making chemical agents in abandoned al-Qaida strongholds in Kabul.
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At the Pentagon Tuesday, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld repeated his belief that al-Qaida militants are in Iraq with Baghdad's knowledge -- but would not comment on any administration discussion concerning a strike on the suspected test site. But Administration officials who ask not to be identified say a decision was made not to target the facility after it was determined to be too rudimentary to pose a serious threat, one sufficient -- at this time -- to warrant the risks of a military operation to take it out. (SIGNED)
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