By Wojciech Moskwa
WARSAW (Reuters) - Artillery shells found by Polish troops in Iraq definitely contained the deadly nerve agent cyclosarin, the Polish army said on Friday.
The threat of weapons of mass destruction possessed by Saddam Hussein's now toppled regime was the main justification used by Washington to go to war against Iraq last year, but U.S.-led forces have only found small amounts of banned weapons.
Poland said its soldiers found 17 Grad rockets and two mortar shells in late June and said U.S. experts had carried out tests on the weapons.
"Tests conducted showed that there was cyclosarin in the rocket heads," General Marek Dukaczewski, the head of army intelligence, told a news conference.
But the U.S. military said only two of the rockets had tested positive for sarin gas, and another 16 of the rockets found by the Poles had contained no chemical agents. The reason for the discrepancy in numbers was unclear.
Polish Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski said the discovery of the rockets showed Saddam had failed to account for banned munitions held by Iraq.
"Our predictions and reports that Saddam Hussein did not come clean with a large sum of weapons, artillery shells and of weapons of mass destruction were proven true," he said.
"Some of those warheads were old but it could not be ruled out some could still be used," Szmajdzinski said.
Poland said in a statement from Iraq that "beyond doubt the shells were from the 1980-1988 period, of the type used against Kurds and during the Iraq-Iran war."
In Baghdad, the U.S. military issued a statement saying that two 122 mm rockets found by Polish forces had tested positive for sarin gas and confirmed that they were left over from the Iran-Iraq war, but said they posed little danger.