Sun, Jun 08, 2003 - Page 1 News List

No solid evidence against Iraq, US admits

ABSENCE OF PROOF The Defense Intelligence Agency said that it really couldn't back up its claim that Saddam Hussein's regime had weapons of mass destruction

AP , WASHINGTON

The Pentagon's intelligence agency had no hard evidence of Iraqi chemical weapons last fall but believed that Iraq had a program in place to produce them, the agency's chief said.

The assessment suggests a higher degree of uncertainty about the immediacy of an Iraqi threat, which was the main justification for war.

Two months after the major fighting in Iraq ended, the US has yet to find any chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, although it did find two trailers it judged to be mobile laboratories for producing bioweapons.

The absence so far of a "smoking gun" has raised questions about the quality of US intelligence before the war and whether the administration exaggerated the urgency of an Iraqi threat.

Vice Admiral Lowell Jacoby, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), discussed the matter at a news conference Friday as the administration scrambled to respond to news reports about excerpts from a September 2002 DIA report on facilities and other pieces of Iraq's arms-building infrastructure.

Jacoby said his agency concurred in an intelligence community consensus last fall that Iraq had a program for weapons of mass destruction. But the DIA was unable to pinpoint any locations.

"We could not specifically pin down individual facilities operating as part of the weapons of mass destruction program, specifically the chemical warfare portion," Jacoby said at a joint news conference with Stephen Cambone, the Pentagon's intelligence chief.

They spoke after the Senate Armed Services Committee met privately with Jacoby, Cambone and an unidentified CIA representative to discuss prewar intelligence on Iraq's weapons programs.

At the White House, visiting Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Durao Barroso told reporters that US President George W. Bush told him Friday he has "full confidence in the intelligence reports he received about the possession of weapons of mass destruction by the former Iraqi authorities."

The administration began building its case against Iraq last August in a series of speeches by US Vice President Dick Cheney.

"There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction," Cheney told a Veterans of Foreign Wars convention on Aug. 26. "There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies and against us."

In September, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld joined in: "We do know that the Iraqi regime has chemical and biological weapons," Rumsfeld told the House Armed Services Committee on Sept. 18. "His regime has amassed large, clandestine stockpiles of chemical weapons -- including VX, sarin, cyclosarin and mustard gas."

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