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Reports emerged Monday the United States missed three opportunities to kill Iraqi rebel leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi at his poison gas lab, the Mirror said.
The Jordanian-born militant who has ties to al-Qaida is blamed for more than 700 terrorist killings in Iraq. In June 2002, U.S. officials said they had information suggesting he and al-Qaida were producing deadly ricin and cyanide at the newly-built laboratory at Kirma in the north.
The Pentagon drew up an attack plan with cruise missiles and air-strikes, but the National Security Council at the White House decided against taking any action.
On two other occasions before the war began, intelligence showed al-Zarqawi was planning a ricin attack in Europe, but again, plans were drawn up and vetoed by the National Security Council, the Mirror said.
"People were more obsessed with developing the coalition to overthrow Saddam (Hussein) than to execute the president's policy of pre-emption against terrorists," Roger Cressey, a former NSC employee, told the British tabloid.
The United States bombed the Kirma lab at the start of the war, but al-Zarqawi and many of his followers were already gone.