Mon, May 05, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Bush says WMDs will be found eventually

ON THE HUNT As the US president joined Australian Prime Minister John Howard, he said that it is well known that the weapons exist and that they would be found

AP , CRAWFORD, TEXAS

Australian Prime Minister John Howard listens as US President George W. Bush speaks in Crawford, Texas, on Saturday.

PHOTO: REUTERS

US President George W. Bush says it is a matter of when -- not if -- weapons of mass destruction will be found in Iraq while suggesting that task is getting little help from Saddam Hussein's captured confederates.

"We'll find them," Bush said Saturday of Iraq's suspected chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. "It'll be a matter of time to do so."

Iraq's alleged possession of such weapons was Bush's main rationale for war, but none have been found since Saddam's government fell more than three weeks ago.

Bush and other US officials had indicated that coalition troops may come up empty in their hunt, saying it is possible that weapons were destroyed before or during the US-led war. On Saturday, a senior Bush aide offered another explanation, saying initial information suggests Iraq's weapons programs was geared mostly toward just-in-time production.

Bush pointed out that the US was not alone in its accusations against Iraq, noting that the UN resolution approved unanimously in the Security Council last fall stated it had banned weapons.

"Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction," Bush said in a joint appearance at his ranch with Australian Prime Minister John Howard. "It's well known."

He said the search would be difficult and lengthy, but ultimately successful.

"Iraq's the size of the state of California. It's got tunnels, caves, all kinds of complexes," he said.

Bush complained that Tariq Aziz, one of Saddam Hussein's closest deputies, is not cooperating with US forces who have him in custody since April 24.

The deputy prime minister was the most visible face of the former Iraqi government other than Saddam's, and Aziz was the official who made Iraq's case before the world when it invaded Kuwait in 1990.

US officials had hoped that Aziz could provide information about the deposed president's whereabouts and Iraq's weapons.

"Tariq Aziz still doesn't know how to tell the truth," Bush said. "He didn't know how to tell the truth when he was in office. He doesn't know to tell the truth when he's been -- as a captive."

Bush did not elaborate. But officials say US intelligence agents are able to check one prisoner's claims against others, now that an increasing number of Iraqi leaders are in US hands. The US has documents that help verify responses from captives, they said.

Bush professed no concern about the lack of credible information, saying that lower-ranking officials and regular citizens "will come forward" and provide it.

"We'll find out a lot about the nature of the Hussein regime as time goes on," he said.

Referring to the deck of cards of wanted Iraqis, Bush said: "It may not be the aces, kings and queens and jacks that do the talking. It may be those are doing the carrying the water for the aces and kings and queens and jacks that do the talking."

Bush and Howard were together for less than a day. The prime minister and his wife, Janette, joined Bush in northern California on Friday afternoon and flew with him back to Texas.

The discussions occurred mostly in social settings. The two couples had dinner together Friday night -- followed by an early bedtime for all. Saturday morning, Bush treated Howard to his usual speed-walking tour of his 640-hectare Prairie Chapel Ranch.

Amid their morning sessions, Bush also squeezed in some telephone diplomacy. He spoke to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and with Jordan's King Abdullah II on the Bush-supported international "road map" for peace in the Middle East.

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