- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 2, 2003

Saddam Hussein concealed weapons programs from the United Nations, and intended to build weapons, the top U.S. arms inspector told Congress yesterday despite failure by his team to find the “actual weapons,” which President Bush said Iraq possessed.

“We have found substantial evidence of an intent of senior-level Iraqi officials, including Saddam, to continue production at some future point in time of weapons of mass destruction,” David Kay said.

“We have not found at this point actual weapons. It does not mean we’ve concluded there are no actual weapons. It means at this point in time, and it’s a huge country with a lot to do, that we have not yet found weapons,” he told reporters after delivering an interim report to Congress, three months after the search for weapons officially began.

The inspection team has found evidence of chemical and biological weapons programs and, to an even greater extent, a missile program, Mr. Kay said.

“The Iraqis were engaged in a very full-scale program that would have extended their delivery systems out beyond 1,000 kilometers [620 miles]; that is enough to reach Ankara, Cairo, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh. And these were both ballistic missiles and Land Attack Cruise Missiles, a refit of the Chinese Silkworm,” he said. He added that the programs were maintained with “foreign assistance.”

But, Mr. Kay said, there is little evidence of a nuclear program or of the weapons.

Democrats, many of whom opposed going to war and questioned whether Saddam had posed an imminent threat to the United States, said the report raises serious questions.

“If you’re going to go to war and you’re going to take the American nation to war and, thus, endanger lives of citizens … then you need to be fairly certain about certain dangers,” said Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. “Either the chemical weapons had to be there, the nuclear weapons had to be there, or the biological weapons had to be there, and it appears to me that none of them were there.”

But Republicans said the administration made a defendable interpretation of the intelligence it was given.

“I see no evidence whatsoever that anybody misled anybody, on the basis of this,” said Rep. Porter J. Goss, Florida Republican and chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

“The policy of the United States since 1998 to seek regime change in Iraq was the right policy,” Mr. Goss said.

Mr. Kay stressed that the report is preliminary and that weapons may still be found. He said he should have a firm answer in six to nine months on whether Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction before the war.

In the declassified version of the classified report Mr. Kay gave to the House and Senate intelligence committees, he said his team has uncovered “dozens of WMD-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations during the inspections that began in late 2002.”

He listed as examples nine programs that were in partial or total violation of U.N. directives. At one point, he noted that cooperating Iraqi scientists had told investigators that they had been directed to conceal a “covert capability to manufacture fuel propellant useful only for prohibited Scud variant missiles.”

Mr. Kay said the scientists have admitted that Baghdad hid biological weapons activity under the guise of legitimate science. He also said the inspection team has uncovered evidence of human testing of chemical and biological substances, but that progress is difficult because scientists are worried about being prosecuted for crimes against humanity.

Before the war early this year, U.S. officials had said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction that they were prepared to use against American troops. At one point, there was speculation that Iraq would deploy chemical weapons if the troops crossed a particular point during the invasion.

But Mr. Kay said they haven’t been able to confirm such a plan. He said multiple sources had told the team that Iraq did not have a large, centralized chemical weapons program after 1991.

“Information found to date suggests that Iraq’s large-scale capability to develop, produce and fill new CW [chemical weapon] munitions was reduced — if not entirely destroyed — during Operations Desert Storm and Desert Fox, 13 years of U.N. sanctions and U.N. inspections,” he said in the report.

Mr. Kay said the team has not determined the functions of two suspect trailers found in April, but that they would have been poor choice for producing hydrogen, biological weapons or missile propellant — three of the original theories.

“It could have done either of those three; it would have done all of them almost equally unsuitable,” he said.

He also said that despite the exit of U.N. weapons inspectors from Iraq in 1998, there was no evidence that Saddam tried to reconstitute a nuclear weapons program after that, as some have suspected.

Mr. Kay also briefed House Appropriations Committee members yesterday. The $87 billion emergency supplemental spending request pending before Congress includes an additional $600 million to continue the search for weapons, several lawmakers said.

Some Democrats said that is an eye-opening amount for a search that may go nowhere, but they seemed inclined to support the increase.

Democrats as well as Republicans agreed that Mr. Kay is doing a good job and that his conclusions can be respected.

“David Kay is a very well-qualified expert on weapons inspection, and if they were there, he would find them,” said Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat.

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