Tue, Oct 07, 2003 - Page 6 News List

US arms hunter dismisses skeptics

REUTERS , WASHINGTON

Though no Iraqi weapons of mass destruction have yet been found, Washington's chief inspector David Kay said on Sunday he was confident the search would turn up "remarkable things" in the coming months.

In a series of television interviews, the CIA special adviser and head of the Iraqi Survey Group said much had been overlooked by the media in an interim report presented last week, in which he said no actual weapons had been discovered.

Kay stressed that the report concluded that Iraq had a vast secret network of laboratories, including some two dozen hidden in the Iraqi intelligence service and operated while UN inspectors were still in the country.

US President George W. Bush justified his decision to invade Iraq citing the imminent threat posed by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's biological, chemical weapons and efforts to develop a nuclear bomb.

Critics seized on Kay's report as further evidence that US intelligence may have been exaggerated in the drive to oust Saddam.

On Fox News Sunday Senator Joseph Lieberman, a Democratic presidential candidate, said though he supported the Iraqi war, he was troubled "the exaggerations and misleading statements made by this administration before the war ... has compromised the just cause of the war."

Kay said his team still was pursuing a number of leads that could result in the discovery of weapons.

He said an Iraqi scientist had produced a vial containing an active biological toxin, and his team was now searching for another reported cache possibly containing anthrax.

He also cited the manufacture as late as in 2002 of fuel for Scud missiles that Iraq used in the first Gulf war and then told UN weapons inspectors it had destroyed.

"What everyone has skated over, both in the chemical and the biological area, is what we indeed have found. We found a vast network of undeclared labs engaged in prohibited activity in both of those areas," Kay said on CNN's Late Edition.

"So it's not that we have found nothing. ... We have actually found quite a bit although we have not yet found shiny pointy things that I would call a weapon."

Kay told ABC's This Week program: "We're inside the country. I know in that country we're going to find remarkable things about their weapons program."

Vice President Dick Cheney pressed the case in Des Moines, Iowa, citing Kay's findings at a Republican fund-raiser and declaring, "Don't let anybody tell you that this was not a significant threat."

Kay said the search for chemical, biological and nuclear weapons would take another six to nine months as his 1,300 inspectors work on many fronts, including the examination of 130 conventional ammunition storage depots that contained some 650,000 tons of arms. He said there were 26 such sites considered critical because chemical munitions might be there.

"We're going through them, but it is a tough go," he told ABC.

On biological weapons, he told the Fox program: "Based on information leads, we have no reason to believe that we will not find more. But we're searching still."

He said the team was still investigating how far Saddam had progressed in a "very nascent start up" of a nuclear weapons program.

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