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Middle East

FBI focusing on Iraqi documents, antiquities

| Friday, April 18, 2003

WASHINGTON -- The FBI is on the hunt for antiquities looted from Iraqi museums and poring over seized documents to identify potential terror threats, FBI Director Robert Mueller said Thursday.

Mueller and Attorney General John Ashcroft also said the FBI had completed the questioning of nearly 10,000 Iraqis living in the United States. The interviews sparked fear among some Muslims and Arabs, but Ashcroft said they proved useful to U.S. troops in Iraq.

"Cooperation of the Iraqi-American people was essential to secure and safeguard our nation during this critical time," Ashcroft said at a news conference.

Mueller said FBI agents in Iraq are assisting in criminal investigations and in finding items stolen when the Baghdad museums were looted. The FBI is also putting alerts on the international police network about the stolen pieces and scanning the Internet to see if any are advertised for sale.

"We are firmly committed to doing whatever we can to secure these treasures to the people of Iraq," Mueller said.

In addition, Mueller said that 25 FBI agents were among the U.S. officials who are carefully examining Iraqi documents found by U.S. forces to look for links to terrorists, potential terror plots, evidence of weapons of mass destruction and activities of Iraqi intelligence agents.

Ashcroft said the Justice Department and FBI also would help train Iraqi police in what he called "rule of law" enforcement techniques that stress respect for individual rights and privacy.

Mueller said the Iraqis, many of whom opposed the rule of Saddam Hussein, helped U.S. officials plug gaps in other intelligence reports and locate weapons production and storage facilities, underground bunkers and tunnel systems, fiber optic networks and detention and interrogation rooms.

Mueller said only two complaints had been brought to his attention about the FBI interviews, a figure Muslim advocates say distorts the widespread fear felt by many Iraqi-Americans. The advocates also said that for every engineer or scientist interviewed by the FBI, there was a student or housewife with scant knowledge of the Iraqi regime.

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