- The comprehensive 15-month search for weapons of mass
destruction in Iraq has concluded that the only chemical or biological
agents that Saddam Hussein's regime was working on before last year's invasion
were small quantities of poisons, most likely for use in assassinations.
- A draft of the Iraq Survey Group's final report circulating
in Washington found no sign of the alleged illegal stockpiles that the
US and Britain presented as the justification for going to war, nor did
it find any evidence of efforts to reconstitute Iraq's nuclear weapons
- It also appears to play down an interim report which
suggested there was evidence that Iraq was developing "test amounts"
of ricin for use in weapons. Instead, the ISG report says in its conclusion
that there was evidence to suggest the Iraqi regime planned to restart
its illegal weapons programmes if UN sanctions were lifted.
- Charles Duelfer, the head of the ISG, has said he intends
to deliver his final report by the end of the month. It is likely to become
a heated issue in the election campaign.
- President George Bush now admits that stockpiles have
not been found in Iraq but claimed as recently as Thursday that "Saddam
Hussein had the capability of making weapons, and he could have passed
that capability on to the enemy".
- The draft Duelfer report, according to the New York Times,
finds no evidence of a capability, but only of an intention to rebuild
that capability once the UN embargo had been removed and Iraq was no longer
the target of intense international scrutiny.
- The finding adds weight to Mr Bush's assertions on the
long-term danger posed by the former Iraqi leader, but it also suggests
that, contrary to the administration's claims, diplomacy and containment
were working prior to the invasion.
- The draft report was handed to British, US and Australian
experts at a meeting in London earlier this month, according to the New
York Times. It largely confirms the findings of Mr Duelfer's predecessor,
David Kay, who concluded "we were almost all wrong" in thinking
Saddam had stockpiled weapons. The Duelfer report goes into greater detail.
- Mr Kay's earlier findings mentioned the existence of
a network of laboratories run by the Iraqi intelligence service, and suggested
that the regime could be producing "test amounts" of chemical
weapons and researching the use of ricin in weapons.
- Subsequent inspections of the clandestine labs, under
Mr Duelfer's leadership, found they were capable of producing small quantities
of lethal chemical and biological agents, more useful for assassinations
of individuals than for inflicting mass casualties.
- Mr Duelfer, according to the draft, does not exclude
the possibility that some weapons materials could have been smuggled out
of Iraq before the war, a possibility raised by the administration and
its supporters. However, the report apparently produces no significant
evidence to support the claim. Nor does it find any evidence of any action
by the Saddam regime to convert dual-use industrial equipment to weapons
- "I think we know exactly how this is going to play
out," said Joseph Cirincione, a proliferation expert at the Carnegie
Endowment for International Peace.
- "You'll see a very elaborate spin operation. But
there's not much new here from what the ISG reported before," he said.
"There are still no weapons, no production of weapons and no programmes
to begin the production of weapons. What we're left with here is that Saddam
Hussein might have had the desire to rebuild the capability to build those
- "Well, lots of people have desire for these weapons.
Lots of people have intent. But that's not what we went to war for."
- The motives for war, meanwhile, came under fresh scrutiny
last night as the Telegraph reported that Tony Blair was warned in Foreign
Office papers a year before the invasion of the scale of dealing with a
- The Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, Sir Menzies
Campbell, said that if authenticated, the papers "demonstrate that
the government agreed with the Bush administration on regime change in
Iraq more than a year before military action was taken".
- Mr Duelfer, who is reported to still be in Baghdad, did
not respond to a request for an interview on the question of WMD yesterday.
- Earlier this year, he told the Guardian that he expected
his report would leave "some unanswered questions".
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