WASHINGTON – The Pentagon will pay rewards of up to $200,000 for information on the whereabouts of leaders from Saddam Hussein's toppled regime and its hidden weapons, defense officials said Tuesday.
In addition to cash payments, U.S. forces in Iraq also can give food, basic necessities and other incentives to encourage Iraqi citizens to "provide information and other assistance ... including the delivery of dangerous personnel and weapons," said Defense Department spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Barbara Burfeind.
With major Iraqi fighting forces defeated, American troops have been focusing on trying to eliminate remaining pockets of resistance, finding key regime leaders and building up programs for the distribution of humanitarian aid.
Officers in the field may authorize rewards of up to $2,500, and the war commander, Gen. Tommy Franks, can authorize up to $50,000. Rewards beyond that -- up to the $200,000 limit -- must be approved by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Burfeind said.
The program is similar to one used in Afghanistan, where the United States offered a multimillion dollar reward for information on Usama bin Laden, who has yet to be found, and his Al Qaeda terrorist network. It was unclear when the program started in Iraq.
"There is a rewards program that's out there for information that would lead to the capturing or even clarifying the condition of those leaders and others," Brig Gen. Vincent Brooks told a news conference earlier Tuesday at command headquarters in Qatar.
"People that have knowledge of the weapons of mass destruction program ... may be rewarded if they provide information about that program," he said, adding the reward program also covers information about terrorist activities inside Iraq.
Though at least a few senior Iraq figures have been captured or have surrendered, officials have not said how many they hold.
On the question of weapons, President Bush's reason for going to war in Iraq was to disarm Saddam of chemical and biological weapons that the administration says he has. Saddam has denied he has them. Bush also has said he feared Saddam would give those weapons to terrorists.
U.S. officials have not announced finding any chemical or biological weapons so far and say they have numerous possible hiding places they want to check. Although U.S. troops have uncovered several suspected chemical or biological weapons sites, some have turned out to be such things as explosives and pesticides. Tests on others are pending.
And U.S. forces haven't yet found any evidence linking Saddam's regime with Al Qaeda, a senior defense official said Monday.
American officials also are interested in clues to the identities and whereabouts of members of Saddam's Baath Party, Iraqi intelligence agents and other Saddam loyalists.
Brooks said, for instance, that special operations forces captured three paramilitary members from Saddam's Baath Party in western Iraq after they were led to them by the local population.
Asked what the price is on Saddam's head, Brooks said, "There is no specific price tag that I'm aware of. And I doubt that there will be a specific price tag."