Powell, Rice defend Iraq arms charges

Bush administration officials yesterday called charges the government exaggerated Iraq’s arsenal of weapons of mass destruction “outrageous” and said evidence of the “effectively concealed” weapons is forthcoming.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said there is no doubt in the intelligence community that Saddam Hussein’s government had the weapons.

On “Fox News Sunday,” Mr. Powell stood by his prewar remarks that “there can be no doubt that Saddam Hussein has biological weapons and the capability to rapidly produce more, many more, and he has the ability to dispense these lethal poisons and diseases in ways that can cause massive death and destruction.”

The intelligence was determined not only in the Bush administration, but also by the Clinton administration as well, he said.

“There can be no question there were weapons before the war. They have had weapons throughout their history. They have used chemical weapons. They have admitted that they had biological weapons. And they never accounted for all that they had or what they might or might not have done with it,” Mr. Powell said.

Mr. Powell said the Iraqis are “masters of deception and hiding” and that it will take time to find the weapons. Proof of the program’s existence will be determined by a new survey group in Iraq, he said.

Meanwhile, Miss Rice accused Democrats of creating a “revisionist history” by asserting the information was politicized, manipulated and embellished to support going to war.

“I just don’t understand this argument. As I said, revisionist history all over the place,” she said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“The fact is, this was a program that was built for concealment. We’ve always known that. We’ve always known that it would take some time to put together a full picture of his weapons of mass destruction programs,” Miss Rice said.

Mr. Powell said it is “really somewhat outrageous on the part of some critics to say that this was all bogus.”

Criticism that Vice President Dick Cheney pressured the CIA to alter its assessments to back a war against Iraq was rejected by Mr. Powell and Miss Rice.

It is Mr. Cheney’s “style to make sure that he has all the information available to us in his mind so that he knows what he’s talking about. That isn’t politicizing, that’s doing a good job,” Mr. Powell said.

Administration officials also rebuffed news reports that the government was unable to pinpoint production sources for weapons of mass destruction and said the information was taken out of context from a Defense Intelligence Agency report.

Miss Rice said some newspapers practiced “selective quotation” that did not stand up within the context of the document.

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