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U.S. Officials Defend Weapons Claims Against Iraq - 2003-06-09


Two top U.S. officials are angrily denying accusations that the United States exaggerated Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, as a justification for the U.S.-led war. Critics are alleging that both the United States and Britain exaggerated the extent of Iraq’s weapons program, which has fueled the debate in both countries. Robert Raffaele has the latest.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice made appearances on American television Sunday to denounce reports suggesting that the Bush administration manipulated evidence of Iraqi weapons, prior to the U.S.-led invasion.

Those reports stem from a partially declassified U.S. intelligence report, which said there was a lack of direct evidence, but concluded that Iraq probably had chemical weapons agents.

On ABC-TV, Ms. Rice said the published reports used ‘selective quotations’ to distort the meaning of the intelligence report. She says its findings have been supported by various sources throughout the intelligence community.

CONDOLEEZA RICE, NAIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR
“If you connected the dots about everything we knew, about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction programs going back to 1991, and going all the way up until March 2003, when we launched the attack against Iraq, you could come to only one conclusion, and that was that this was an active program, that this was a dangerous program, this was a program that was being effectively concealed.”

So far, the U.S. has only pointed to the existence of what it says are mobile vans, capable of transporting biological weapons illustrated here.

Monday in Washington, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer defended the Bush administration’s stance that previous findings strongly suggest the existence of dangerous chemical and biological weapons.

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN
“I think the facts on the ground show that in the United States’ conduct in the war, we had good reason to worry about Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction, particularly when we found Iraqi troops with chemical weapons protection gear of their own, when they had atropine, which is used to inoculate against the affects of a chemical attack. What other conclusions should military planners have reached when they discovered things like that?”

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