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Rumsfeld Holds Secret Briefing for Senators - 2002-09-04

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was briefing senators Wednesday on the latest developments in the war on terrorism. Pentagon officials said they expected the closed-door discussions would focus on Iraq.

Mr. Rumsfeld's secret Capitol Hill briefing came the day after he indicated the United States has secret information about Iraq's efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction - specifically nuclear weapons.

Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon, the defense secretary said the information was likely to be released in the coming days and weeks. He gave no details but said there was no ambiguity about Baghdad's interest in obtaining nuclear arms.

"We know that they were a lot closer than any of the experts had estimated they would be with respect to a nuclear weapon, and that was discovered during the post-1991 period by actually seeing what was there," said Mr. Rumsfeld. "To the extent inspectors have been out now for a number of years, we know that we don't know what's taken place during those period of years. To the extent that they have kept their nuclear scientists together and working on these efforts, one has to assume they have not been playing tiddly-winks," he said, referring to a children's game.

Mr. Rumsfeld restated the Bush administration's interest in seeing United Nations weapons inspectors return to Iraq.

But he also voiced the belief that Baghdad remains unlikely to allow the kind of thorough inspections necessary to uncover the full extent of its weapons programs.

He acknowledged Iraqi leaders may hint at concessions. But Mr. Rumsfeld called such moves mere public relations ploys.