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US Arms Inspector Briefs Lawmakers About Search for Iraqi WMDs - 2003-10-02

U.S. arms inspector David Kay is briefing lawmakers on Capitol Hill about his search for evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. His visit comes as the Senate is continuing debate about President Bush's $87 billion supplemental request for Iraq and Afghanistan.

David Kay, who was sent to Iraq by the Central Intelligence Agency to look for signs of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons in Iraq, is meeting behind closed doors with House and Senate members.

The Bush administration is under pressure to show evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, a primary reason the United States decided to invade and topple Saddam Hussein's regime.

But U.S. officials have indicated Mr. Kay will produce no conclusive evidence of banned weapons in Iraq.

Administration officials are downplaying Mr. Kay's report, saying it is an 'interim' report. They deny President Bush sought to mislead the public.

Meanwhile, The New York Times is reporting the administration is seeking more than $600 million from Congress to continue the search for weapons' evidence in Iraq. That is in addition to $300 million already spent on the effort.

The new money is included in Mr. Bush's $87 billion request for Iraq and Afghanistan, being debated in the Senate. The most controversial part of the package is $20.3 billion for the reconstruction of Iraq.

Lawmakers would like other nations to help with the cost. Senator Robert Byrd, a West Virginia Democrat, asked why the administration is pressing Congress to act on the package, before a donors' conference in Madrid, at the end of the month.

"Could we be over-billing the American taxpayer by rushing this package through the Senate now, and signing up for $20.3 billion in debt before we even try to make the real accommodations, which would encourage other nations to reach into their own pockets?" he asked.

But Republicans argue congressional action on the package will prompt other nations to follow suit.

Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, urged his colleagues to support the reconstruction funding.

"We seek to make Iraq secure, to make it a place where the rule of law can be established, so that civilian leaders, including the Iraqi Governing Council can establish a new government for a new nation," the senator said. "It is not an easy task, and it is not without cost."

The House is to take up the measure next week, and both chambers are expected to vote on it by mid-October.