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Rumsfeld Still Confident  Weapons of Mass Destruction Will be Found in Iraq - 2003-05-29


Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says he still believes coalition forces in Iraq will eventually find clear evidence of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction programs.

Although U.S. forces in Iraq have found what appear to be two mobile biological weapons laboratories, they have so far found no actual biological or chemical weapons.

That has led critics to charge that U.S. intelligence on Iraq's weapons programs was faulty, or that intelligence information was politically shaped to justify military action against Saddam Hussein.

But Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said that is not the case. "I can assure you that this war was not waged under any false pretext," he emphasized.

In a radio interview (Infinity Radio) at the Pentagon, Mr. Rumsfeld said intelligence gathered before the war on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction by both the United States and Britain was accurate. He said Iraq had chemical and biological weapons.

"We believed then and we believe now that the Iraqis have, had chemical weapons, biological weapons and that they had a program to develop nuclear weapons but did not have nuclear weapons," he explained.

Mr. Rumsfeld said the failure to find conclusive proof thus far is the result of several factors, including the size of the country, the number of suspect sites and Iraq's experience in hiding its weapons programs.

He emphasized again he never expected coalition forces would come into Iraq and simply find the weapons. He still believes Iraqis will come forward and direct inspectors to the weapons.

The U.S. defense secretary acknowledges there has been speculation that Iraq may have destroyed its chemical and biological weapons before the war or that it may have shipped such weapons to a neighboring country. But he said his personal view is that the weapons exist and that they will be found.

The secretary's comments come as an Iraqi chemist who once worked in Iraq's nerve agent program says the country quit producing such weapons after the 1991 Gulf War.

The chemist, Khalid Francis Thomas, tells VOA that orders came down after the war for his laboratory to abandon testing the nerve agent VX. According to him, the lab was told to switch to analyzing pesticides and herbicides.

Mr. Thomas, an Iraqi Christian with a chemistry degree from Baghdad University, says he was a supervisor at the lab. He added that as far as he knows, there has been no Iraqi chemical or biological weapons program since 1991.

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