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FIND THEM; EXCLUSIVE Blair sends elite military unit to hunt for WMDs.

Byline: GARY JONES and TOM NEWTON DUNN

ONE hundred of Britain's elite military intelligence staff will join a fresh US search for weapons of mass destruction, defence sources revealed yesterday.

Tony Blair ordered the deployment of the unit which includes our best interrogators. They will extract information from Iraq officials who have already been grilled by US soldiers.

A military source said: "To begin with, the emphasis on the group's work will be much more about human intelligence than digging at sites.

"In short, that means getting people to tell us things that they have so far felt reluctant to. And we have people who are very good indeed at doing that."

The British contingent will form part of the new US-led Iraqi Survey Group of 1,400 staff.

It will be based in Baghdad and will report directly to Washington. The ISG will also collect information on war crimes and terrorism during Saddam's regime.

The British unit will help interview key scientists and comb through documents which could shed light not only weapons but on the alleged links between Saddam's regime and al-Qaeda.

British staff will be led by Middle East affairs expert Brigadier John Deverell, who spent the Gulf War in the key job of Defence Attache at the British Embassy in Saudi Arabia. Brigadier Deverell, who won an OBE for his service in Northern Ireland and once commanded a Challenger II tank squadron, will be the group's Chief of Staff.

He will answer to US Major General Keith Dayton. His team will be made up of the cream of British military analysts and linguists from the Intelligence Corps' HQ Chicksands at Shefford, Bedfordshire.

They will be backed by experts in non-conventional warfare from the Joint NBC Regiment, based at Winterbourne Gunner, Wilts.

They will interview dozens of Iraqi officials who failed to disclose any information to US forces.

All insist Iraqi chemical and biological operations were shut down in the 1990s under the United Nations inspection regime.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman last night insisted that the Iraqi Survey Group's mission was expected to succeed given time.

He said: "The aim of the ISG is to build on the work of the 75th Exploitation Task Force with the added help of a significant intelligence capability."

He added: "It is not at all a pointless exercise. We believe there is a lot more work to be done out there."

Britain initially opposed a coalition-led task force to hunt for weapons of mass destruction.

A month ago, the Government called for neutral representatives, such as the Northern Ireland disarmament commission lead by Canadian general John de Chastelain, to rule on the issue.

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ACTION: Tony Blair yesterday after he ordered top military intelligence staff into Iraq to find Saddam's weapons Picture: REUTERS
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jun 4, 2003
Words:464
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