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Debate Flares Over Pre-War Reports of Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction - 2003-06-04

In News from Iraq: Coalition forces continue to search the country for Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction. This as a debate heats up in London and Washington over the accuracy of Western intelligence reports that concluded Baghdad had weapons of mass destruction before the war. VOA-TV’s Chris Simkins has our report.

Destroying Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction was one of the main justifications coalition forces used for going to war with Iraq. But since American and British forces took over the country their search for chemical or biological weapons has come up empty.

Now the validity of intelligence reports produced before the war by the United States and Britain are being called into question. The evidence from those reports concluded that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, and could use them against other countries.

In London, British Prime Minister Tony Blair under fire in parliament, denied reports his government overstated an intelligence report in September. It suggested Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction could be deployed almost immediately.

“That allegations also is completely and totally untrue and I suggest instead of one anonymous source or many anonymous sources that if these people have any evidence that they actually produce it.”

Former British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook says the inquire should focus on whether Mr. Blair’s government exaggerated intelligence reports to justify sending British troops to join the U.S. lead war with Iraq.

“We were told the whole point of this war was to disarm Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction. We have not yet found a single such weapon to disarm and that’s why we need to find out why it went wrong, who did get it wrong and we need to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Mr. Blair says his government will cooperate with a parliamentary investigation into the intelligence reports.

Both U.S. and British officials insist the intelligence on Iraq was sound and that Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction will eventually be found.

In Washington, some U.S. lawmakers are calling for a similar probe into the Bush Administration’s use of intelligence on Iraq. The New York Times reports that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency is reviewing a pre-war report that concluded Iraq possessed biological and chemical weapons. The review reportedly will try to determine if American intelligence miscalculated the extent of the threat posed by Saddam’s weapons program before the war started in March.

At the Pentagon, U.S. Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith denied slanting intelligence on Iraq to give the Bush Administration justification for going to war with Iraq.

“I know of no pressure, I can’t rule out what other people may have perceived, who knows what people perceive. I know of nobody that pressured anyone.”

U.S. officials say despite allegations of flawed intelligence on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction they remain confident they will find them. They say coalition forces still have some 400 suspected weapons sites to investigate.