Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says he believes Iraq may be taking advantage of less restrictive United Nations sanctions by using the U.N.-approved import of civilian goods to rebuild stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. He made the comments just days before holding talks with three key U.S. allies in the Persian Gulf.
It was one of the Bush administration's sharpest warnings yet about the possibility of Iraq fully rearming. Secretary Rumsfeld suggested Wednesday the world is standing by as Iraq rebuilds its nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Mr. Rumsfeld said, "We know the borders into that country are quite porous, and we know that dual use capabilities have been flowing in as well as illicit materials that are helpful in their programs for weapons of mass destruction. But there is not a doubt in the world but that every month that goes by, their programs mature by a month."
Iraq maintains its weapons of mass destruction were all destroyed after the Gulf War, and refuses to allow U.N. weapons inspectors, which it calls spies, to return. President Bush has labeled Iraq part of an axis of evil and has not ruled out a military strike even though he says no such plans are on his desk.
Still, Secretary Rumsfeld's visit marks the second time in three months that a senior administration official has been to the Gulf to discuss Iraq with Arab allies.
Vice President Dick Cheney made a trip in March.