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Britain: Weapons Report Proves Hussein Was a Threat - 2004-10-07

Britain says a CIA report that concludes Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction before the U.S.-led invasion last year nonetheless confirms that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein posed a threat that could not be ignored.

British leaders say the report by the U.S.-led Iraq Survey Group contains ample evidence against Saddam Hussein, despite the key conclusion that he did not possess a stockpile of mass destruction weapons.

Before the invasion of March 2003, both Britain and the United States had argued that Iraq's suspected arsenal of chemical and biological weapons was the key reason to topple Saddam Hussein.

Reacting to the CIA report, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said it shows that Saddam Hussein was trying to evade U.N. sanctions to redevelop his weapons of mass destruction programs.

The British foreign secretary, Jack Straw, said the report breaks new ground, confirming Saddam Hussein never abandoned his intention to acquire chemical weapons if sanctions were lifted.

A former Iraq weapons inspector, Olivia Bosch, told British radio the report proves Iraq was in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

"It is very comprehensive," she said. "And it reminds us that the programs of weapons of mass destruction that the former regime had involved both intent and capability. Lots of press coverage and political focus has been on stockpiles, the end process, but the resolutions called all along for the dismantling of programs, and again that is intent and capability."

But the former British foreign secretary Robin Cook, who resigned from the Blair cabinet over the war, disagrees. He says the report's conclusions show that U.N. weapons inspectors led by Hans Blix should have been allowed to continue their work in Iraq, instead of being pulled out just before the invasion.

"There were no chemical precursors, there were no biological agents, there were no plants to make them, there were no delivery vehicles to fire them, there was no program, no capability, no weapons," Mr. Cook said. " Now we could have found all that out if we had let Hans Blix finish the job, which he wanted to do, without fighting a war in which 10,000 people were killed."

In other reaction, the opposition Liberal Democrat party says the report upholds its position that the war was unnecessary. Britain's main opposition party, the Conservatives, supported the war but say the report shows Mr. Blair was not honest with the British people when he made his case against Saddam Hussein.