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Pentagon: Iraq Has Sophisticated Programs to Cover up Weapons - 2002-10-04


The Pentagon says it has evidence that Iraq is trying to conceal its weapons of mass destruction program in anticipation of the return of United Nations inspectors.

Chief Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke replies with a firm "yes" when asked whether new Iraqi weapons concealment efforts have been detected.

But Ms. Clarke declines to reveal any details, citing the secret nature of the evidence gathered in recent weeks.

Nevertheless, she says the Pentagon is planning a special briefing next week to make public aspects of what defense officials describe as Iraq's deception and denial program.

Ms. Clarke pointed out it is a very organized effort.

It is a very organized, very comprehensive effort that involves a lot of people in the Iraqi regime, involves inputs and guidance from the highest levels: very, very sophisticated programs to cover up weapons of mass destruction," she said.

Ms. Clarke's comments coincided with the release of a new, unclassified report by the Central Intelligence Agency on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program.

The CIA report asserts Baghdad has chemical and biological weapons as well as missiles with ranges exceeding the 150 kilometer limit set under U.N. resolutions. The report also charges that if left unchecked, Iraq will probably will have a nuclear weapon during this decade.

The CIA report goes on to say elite Iraqi security services have orchestrated an extensive concealment and deception campaign to hide incriminating documents and material related to Baghdad's weapons programs.

The Pentagon spokeswoman disputes reporters' suggestions that the Bush administration has mounted what is essentially an orchestrated campaign of its own to discredit Baghdad.

Instead, Ms. Clarke called the release of such information essential to decision-making by the administration, by Congress and by the United Nations.

"Part of the thinking, part of the consideration has got to be the fact that lies and deception and deceit on the part of this [Iraqi] regime are a very active and effective part of their offensive, if you will," she said.

Earlier this week, intelligence sources told VOA about fresh activity around suspected Iraqi weapons sites, including the removal of items believed linked to Baghdad's chemical and biological weapons programs.

A recent British government report on Iraqi weapons programs also mentioned evidence of the concealment of what were termed sensitive equipment and papers, much of it being moved by trucks.

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