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Weapons experts are warning that confusion over how the US-led occupying powers will treat Iraqi scientists is hindering the search for weapons of mass destruction in the country.

US radio broadcasts in Iraq have asked scientists to step forward, promising that they "will be treated with respect and dignity". But many Iraqi scientists fear being taken prisoner by US forces, retaliation by Saddam loyalists, or being kidnapped and being held to ransom.

Until the uncertainty ends, observers say, scientists who could hand over valuable information may be tempted to hide or flee to rogue nations.

Link to Nature news story

Reference: Nature 423, 371 (2003)