U.S. Expert Says No WMD Found in Iraq Yet
By JOHN J. LUMPKIN, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON - Chief U.S. weapons searcher David Kay reported Thursday he had found no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq a finding that brought fresh congressional complaints about the Bush administration's prewar assertions of an imminent threat from Saddam Hussein.
Kay, in a report to Congress, described evidence of a possible small-scale biological weapons effort, and said searchers had substantial evidence of an Iraqi push to boost the range of its ballistic missiles beyond prohibited ranges.
But his team had found only limited evidence of any chemical weapons effort, he said, and there was almost no sign that a significant nuclear weapons project was under way.
"We have not found at this point actual weapons," Kay said. "It does not mean we've concluded there are no actual weapons."
"In addition to intent, we have found a large body of continuing activities and equipment that were not declared to the U.N. inspectors when they returned in November of last year," he said.
He cautioned that the search was still under way and said he should know within six to nine months if there was more to be found.
The lack of substantive findings so far brought immediate negative reactions from both Republicans and Democrats in Congress — and also seemed certain to raise new questions among allies overseas about the Bush administration's justification for going to war.
"I'm not pleased by what I heard today, but we should be willing to adopt a wait and see attitude — and that's the only alternative we really have," said Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said of Kay's briefing: "There was talk about facilities that might. There was talk about intent. But there was not talk about weapons of mass destruction. ... There's nothing we can point to and they're asking for another six to nine months."
The administration's assertions about Iraq's weapons programs and ties to terrorism, and the intelligence conclusions behind those assertions had driven the administration's case for war.
Critics have contended that either the CIA and other agencies that make up the U.S. intelligence community made serious errors in their analysis or the administration exaggerated what intelligence information it did have to persuade a skeptical world to support an invasion.
The administration is asking for $600 million to continue the hunt for conclusive evidence that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, according to congressional officials.
Separately, CIA Director George J. Tenet, in a letter to the leaders of the House Intelligence Committee obtained by The Associated Press, rejected congressional criticism that the prewar intelligence findings were flawed.
Tenet's statement came in response to a blistering letter from Reps. Porter Goss, R-Fla., and Jane Harman, D-Calif., the heads of the House intelligence committee. That letter, dated Sept. 25, cited "significant deficiencies with respect to the collection activities concerning Iraq's WMD and ties to al-Qaida prior to the commencement of hostilities there."
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Thursday "it will be unfortunate" if it turns out that intelligence used to justify the war in Iraq turns out to have been seriously flawed.
The findings cited by Kay included:
_ On biological weapons, a single vial of a strain of botulinum, a poison that can be used as a weapon, located at the home of a known biological weapons scientist.
_ On chemical weapons, multiple sources told the weapons hunting group that Iraq did not have a large, ongoing, centrally controlled program after 1991. There had been reports that Iraq retained some of its old chemical weapons but Kay said none had been found.
_ On nuclear weapons, Kay said in his statement to Congress that despite evidence of Saddam's continued ambition to acquire nuclear weapons, "to date we have not uncovered evidence that Iraq undertook significant post-1998 steps to actually build nuclear weapons or produce fissile material."
_ But on missiles, Kay said the team had "discovered sufficient evidence to date to conclude that the Iraqi regime was committed to delivery system improvements."
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