(IPS) WASHINGTON --
United States plans to make the best of the elite Iraqi scientists and technicians, who helped develop the military arsenal and weapons program of the ousted regime, to prevent them from selling their expertise to other countries or terrorist groups, media reports quoting the U.S. State Department said.
"We are looking at scientists and technicians here, not politicians, not political people. If there are issues that arise with regard to individuals, those issues will be looked at," Department Spokesman Richard Boucher told a recently-held press conference in Washington.
Boucher said that the program would begin with a $2 million U.S. contribution, and the United States may provide as much as $20 million more later.
He said that the U.S. intended to establish a new office in Baghdad to enhance the "peaceful research" program. The office will be named "The International Iraqi Center for Sciences and Industry."
The center is expected to be operational within six months after its inauguration, with analysts describing it as a "prison" for the highly decorated scientists.
The revelation coincided with arrests of some Iraqi scientists by U.S. troops.
Iraq's interim scientific research and education minister Ziyad Abd said that the scientists are currently being questioned on the country's alleged weapons of mass destruction, the central rationale used by the U.S. to invade Iraq.
The U.S., in effect, regards the Iraqi scientists as the bedrock of developing the weapons programs and arsenal that gave Washington and its close allies worldwide a cause for concern.
Following the invasion, many Iraqi scientists vanished into thin air when they felt that their lives were at a real risk.
The Israeli daily Maariv reported last April that Israeli death squads had been sent to Iraq to liquidate some 500 Iraqi scientists who were involved in the country's biological and chemical weapons.
The paper said the scientists were the same ones who were listed by UN weapons inspectors for interviews during their mandate in Iraq before the invasion which started March 20.
A number of scientists and university professors had further sent an SOS e-mail, complaining that the U.S. occupation forces were threatening their lives.
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