President Bush is defending his decision to invade Iraq, in the face of stepped up criticism after the chief U.S. weapons inspector told Congress that his team has not yet found any Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. The immediacy of the threat from Iraq's weapons of mass destruction was President Bush's biggest justification for toppling Saddam Hussein.
But after nearly six months of searching, the chief U.S. arms inspector for Iraq, David Kay, says his team has not yet found any.
That has made Congressional Democrats even more critical of the president's decision to invade Iraq, with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi saying Mr. Kay's interim report shows there was more time for diplomacy before the U.S.-led invasion.
Before the war, France, Germany and Russia asked President Bush to give U.N. inspectors in Iraq more time to search for those weapons. But Mr. Bush said Iraq presented a "grave and growing" threat.
The president Friday stood by his decision to go to war. Speaking in the Midwest state of Wisconsin, Mr. Bush read from the interim report, saying Saddam Hussein's weapons program was "a danger to the world."
"Iraq's WMD programs spanned more than two decades, involved thousands of people, billions of dollars, and was elaborately shielded by security and deception operations that continued even beyond the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom," said Mr. Bush.
Mr. Bush says the interim report shows that Saddam Hussein was not complying with international demands limiting Iraqi weapons production.
"This interim progress report is not final," he said. "Extensive work remains to be done on his biological, chemical and nuclear programs.
"But these findings already make clear that Saddam Hussein actively deceived the international community, was in clear violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1441 and was a danger to the world," he continued. "The world is a better place when we got rid of Saddam Hussein."
While the interim report says U.S. inspectors have not found any illegal weapons, Mr. Kay says that does not mean they do not exist. He says inspectors have found that Iraq was engaged in a program to extend the range of its missiles beyond the U.N.-mandated limit of 1,000 kilometers. Mr. Kay's inspectors also have uncovered evidence of dozens of "activities" related to chemical and biological weapons programs, but he will need at least six more months to reach any conclusions.
Congressional officials say the Bush administration is asking for $600 million to continue the weapons search. That is part of the $87 billion the president wants Congress to spend to help rebuild Iraq and pay for the U.S. occupation.
President Bush spoke following the release of a public opinion poll showing more than half of Americans believe the war in Iraq was not worth the costs. Responding to the poll, Mr. Bush said, sometimes, the American people like his decisions, and sometimes they don't. But he said they need to know he makes tough decisions, based on what he thinks is right.