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Uzbekistan: U.S. Troops Find Chemical Weapons Traces At Air Base

Bagram, Afghanistan, 9 June 2002 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. military officials said today that they have found traces of nerve and mustard gases at a military base in Uzbekistan that is being used by U.S. forces to support the antiterrorism campaign in Afghanistan. The AP quotes U.S. Colonel Roger King as saying that the traces are suspected to have come from chemical weapons that were stored by Soviet forces at the Karshi Khanabaz base. He said no soldiers have reported any symptoms of exposure.

King said a team of experts detected the traces at three different locations on the Karshi Khanabaz base during a routine inspection.

King said two of the three locations are in high security areas -- including a part of the base used by senior U.S. military officers as their headquarters. He said the contamination is being released from the ground -- indicating that it is likely the result of chemical spills during the Soviet era.

King said warmer temperatures in Uzbekistan during recent weeks may explain why the traces were not detected by earlier U.S. tests.