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Inspector Calls US Iraq Intelligence a Failure - 2004-01-26

David Kay, the outgoing chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq says it is not likely that any large stockpiles of banned weapons will be found in Iraq. Mr. Kay has blamed intelligence failures for what he now says is the mistaken belief that Saddam Hussein had chemical or biological weapons.

David Kay was sent into Iraq after major combat operations had ended last May, charged with finding the nuclear, chemical or biological weapons that the United States said posed a threat to the world.

"My summary view, based on what I've seen, is that we're very unlikely to find large stockpiles of weapons," he said. "I don't think they exist."

President Bush used Saddam Hussein's refusal to verify disarmament - as demanded by the United Nations - to justify his decision to go to war. But after months of searches that have turned up evidence of weapons programs - but no actual weapons - David Kay tells National Public Radio the U.S. intelligence community owes the White House an apology.

"You have to remember that this view of Iraq was held during the Clinton administration and didn't change in the Bush administration," he said. "It is not a political 'gotcha' issue. It is a serious issue of how you could come to the conclusion that is not matched by the future."

In response to the Kay comments, Secretary of State Colin Powell says it's now an open question whether Iraq actually had banned weapons before the U.S.-led invasion. He spoke to reporters while visiting Moscow Monday.

"Saddam Hussein had the intention of having weapons of mass destruction, had weapons of mass destruction programs, had weapons which he had used in the past and we believed he had every possibility of having such weapons in the present," he said.

Even so, White House spokesman Scott McCellan says the search for weapons will continue and that no conclusions can be drawn about the accuracy of U.S. intelligence until that search is finished.

In London, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw echoed the White House view that Saddam Hussein, regardless, posed a dangerous and gathering threat.

"I happen to believe that the decision we made on the 18th of March to take military action was justified then in terms of enforcing international law and is still more justified now," he said.

But David Kay now says he believes a decade of United Nations sanctions and inspections during the 1990s had largely stopped Baghdad from stockpiling and producing illicit weapons. And, he tells the New York Times, he believes Saddam Hussein had become so isolated that his own scientists were able to deceive him into thinking banned weapons were being produced when in fact money allocated for them was being diverted through corruption. A U.S. intelligence official tells VOA the United States never saw anything to suggest that, but says access to that type of information would require the kind of human intelligence inside Iraq that U.S. officials did not have.