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POWELL FAVORS GOVERNMENT INQUIRY INTO WAR ILLNESS.

Byline: The New York Times

While insisting that he knew of no evidence showing that American troops had been exposed to chemical or biological weapons during the Persian Gulf War, Gen. Colin Powell said Monday that he supported a wide-ranging government investigation to ``get to the bottom'' of the mysterious illnesses reported by thousands of Gulf War veterans.

Powell, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1991, said in an interview that while chemical-detection alarms had sounded repeatedly during the war, American commanders in the gulf had been unable to confirm the detections and had believed them to be false alarms.

``They saw nothing that substantiated the alarm evidence,'' he said. ``The alarms went off, and it wasn't clear that the alarms' going off was necessarily'' evidence of ``the presence of chemical weapons,'' said Powell, who is retired.

He noted that American commanders ``didn't see anybody becoming ill, and chemical weapons usually make you ill rather immediately.''

Asked what information about the chemical alarms had been reported to the Pentagon during the war, Powell replied: ``I may well have been aware of them, but not in a way that caused me any alarm. There had been no offensive use of chemical weapons. No one was falling ill.''

The Pentagon revealed earlier this year that thousands of troops may have been exposed to nerve gas and other Iraqi chemical weapons when American combat engineers blew up an ammunition depot shortly after the war. Since then, other former Pentagon officials and military officers have declined to be interviewed on the subject, most notably Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, the American commander in the gulf, and Richard Cheney, the former defense secretary.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 3, 1996
Words:280
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