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Chalabi Believes US Forces Will Find Weapons of Mass Destruction - 2003-06-13

The leader of the Iraqi National Congress, Ahmad Chalabi, says he believes there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and that U.S. and coalition forces will be able to find them.

In recent days, Mr. Chalabi has been making speeches and appearing on television news programs saying former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is alive and in hiding, and is financing efforts to de-stabilize the U.S.-led coalition.

The former exile opposition leader, who was flown into Iraq in the early days of the coalition advance on Baghdad, says coalition forces will eventually find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Mr. Chalabi has been denying reports that information his group provided to U.S. forces was faulty or that it was manipulated by the Bush administration. But he said U.S. forces need to do a better job of working with various Iraqi groups who opposed Saddam if they are to find the weapons. "There are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Saddam had them and he was developing them continuously. And I think if there is a correct way to look for them, then they will be found," he said.

Mr. Chalabi declined to identify the Iraqis he said may hold the key to locating the weapons, but he said those same people can help locate Saddam Hussein. "If we look for him in an intelligent way, and that the energy against him and against the Baath party that is prevalent among the Iraqi people, is mobilized and channeled to work in tandem with U.S. forces, I think he will be found," he said.

Mr. Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress played a central role in persuading members of Congress to pass the Iraq Liberation Act, which was signed into law by former President Bill Clinton in 1998.

The act put Congress on record in support of regime change in Iraq, and was cited by the Bush administration in its initial draft of a congressional resolution to authorize U.S.-led military action.

Congressman Christopher Cox, who appeared with Mr. Chalabi, said lawmakers wanted to meet with Mr. Chalabi, almost five years after the Iraq Liberation Act was enacted,to assess what has been achieved. "We discussed today issues ranging from the pace of reconstruction and the prospects for the adoption of a constitution and a referendum on that constitution in Iraq, to the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein and the resources that he might command," he said.

Mr. Chalabi describes as exaggerated, reports of opposition by Iraqi Shiite Muslims to the U.S.-led occupation. To the contrary, he says, the "overriding sentiment" of Iraqis is gratitude and thanks for being freed from Saddam Hussein's rule.

He also denied he is pressing the Bush administration to modify current plans for a political council during the transition to a civilian administration.

Mr. Chalabi says he is working closely with Paul Bremer, the top U.S. administrator in Iraq, on steps that will "take Iraq quickly into a democratic representative government."