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Top US Weapons Hunter Finds No Evidence to Support All Pre-War Claims - 2003-10-05

The Bush Administration's top weapons hunter in Iraq says the United States has yet to find evidence to support all of President George Bush's claims concerning weapons of mass destruction that were made prior to the war with Iraq, but that the search is continuing.

U.S. arms inspector David Kay says after months of scouring Iraq backed by a 1,200 member team, no actual weapons of mass destruction have been uncovered. But he stresses that the work is not complete, and that indications concerning possible weapons programs in Iraq have come to light.

Mr. Kay was asked about former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's nuclear capacity on the U.S. television program, ABC's This Week. "What we have found is, indeed, there were indications in 1999 and 2000 of new money flowing into the nuclear program, and a very nascent start-up of that program. We do not know yet the full details of it, and we are continuing to investigate. I think if someone had given them [Iraqi officials under Saddam Hussein] the enriched material or the plutonium, I think it would have taken them a year or less to fabricate a weapon from that material," he said.

Mr. Kay was also asked about the former Iraqi government's chemical and biological weapons capacity. The inspector said he cannot verify an allegation the Bush Administration made last year that Saddam Hussein had as much as 500 tons of lethal chemical agents at his disposal.

But Mr. Kay was quick to add that such an amount can easily be hidden, and that chemical or biological weapons of mass destruction may yet be found. "Five hundred [tons] seems large, but the actual physical amount would fit in a suburban two-car garage. It is not a large physical amount. Iraq had 600,000 to 650,000 tons of conventional arms scattered over 130 major ammunition storage points. We are going through them, but it is a tough go. These sites are larger than 50 square miles, in most cases. It just takes time to go through them," he said.

Last week, Mr. Kay briefed U.S. lawmakers on an interim report of U.S. findings in Iraq. Both Republican and Democratic members of Congress have expressed dismay over the failure of the United States to uncover weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

California Congresswoman Jane Harmon, the ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, voiced her frustration on the CBS' Face the Nation. "I think, frankly, that the national intelligence estimate that came out in October 2002 and which has a key judgement, that Iraq has chemical and biological weapons, was wrong. And we are learning that as Dr. Kay is reporting to Congress on his fairly futile search [for weapons] so far," she said.

Last month, Ms. Harmon and her Republican counterpart on the Intelligence Committee wrote a letter to the Central Intelligence Agency alleging that U.S. information about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program prior to the war was "fragmentary" and based largely on past assessments dating to the 1998 departure of international weapons inspectors. The CIA denied the charge.