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British Lawmaker Questions Bush Statement on Iraq's 'WMD-Related Program Activities' - 2004-01-21


President Bush's reference to Iraq's "weapons of mass destruction-related program activities" has sparked controversy in Britain's parliament.

In his State of the Union address, President Bush said the United States is still seeking all the facts about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. And he made reference to the work of the Iraq Survey Group led by senior weapons inspector David Kay.

"Already, the Kay report identified dozens of weapons of mass destruction-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations," President Bush said.

The president's remarks came under scrutiny in the British Parliament, where one opposition leader, Charles Kennedy, raised the matter with Prime Minister Tony Blair during "Question Time."

"When last night in his State of the Union address, President Bush referred to the search for weapons of mass destruction-related program activities, can the prime minister confirm that that is what the Iraq Survey Group is now searching for, and in the process, can he explain to us all what exactly does that mean?" he asked.

Mr. Blair said the search for weapons of mass destruction, though fruitless, will continue.

"The president was referring to Dr. Kay's report, the Iraq Survey Group report that has already indicated the evidence of the concealment of weapons of mass destruction programs," he explained. "But the Iraq Survey Group, of course, looks not merely for the programs, but also for the weapons themselves."

Mr. Kennedy, who opposed the war, said there has been a trend of what he called "shifting rhetoric" regarding Iraq and its weapons.

He said that in pre-war debate, Parliament was told Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, then the prime minister talked of weapons programs, and now the president refers to weapons-related program activities.

Mr. Kennedy said an independent inquiry should be opened to examine on what basis Britain went to war.

Mr. Blair replied by saying there is no doubt Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and the case had been made not just by Britain and the United States, but also the United Nations and U.N. weapons inspectors during the course of 12 years.

He said Parliament can debate the findings when the Iraq Survey Group issues its final report.

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