CTV.ca News Staff
The top U.S. arms inspector says he has found no evidence that Iraq produced any weapons of mass destruction after 1991.
The potentially damaging assertions from Charles Duelfer, the CIA special adviser who led the hunt for weapons of mass destruction, contradict the Bush administration's main argument for invading Iraq
Contrary to pre-war statements by President George W. Bush, Saddam Hussein did not have chemical and biological stockpiles when the war began. And his nuclear capabilities were deteriorating, not advancing, according to the report.
"I still do not expect that militarily significant WMD stocks are cached in Iraq," Duelfer said in testimony for the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Duelfer's report also says Saddam Hussein's weapons capability weakened during a dozen years of UN sanctions before the U.S. invasion last year. Nevertheless, the former Iraqi dictator did not abandon his nuclear ambitions, Duelfer said.
"The analysis shows that despite Saddam's expressed desire to retain the knowledge of his nuclear team, and his attempts to retain some key parts of the program, during the course of the following 12 years (after 1991) Iraq's ability to produce a weapon decayed," Duelfer said.
The findings come less than four weeks before an election in which Bush's handling of Iraq has become the central issue.
The inspector's report could boost Democratic challenger John Kerry's claim that Bush rushed to war based on faulty intelligence and that sanctions and UN weapons inspectors should have been given more time.
On the campaign trail in Pennsylvania, Bush continued to defend his decision to invade Iraq.
"There was a risk, a real risk, that Saddam Hussein would pass weapons or materials or information to terrorist networks,'' Bush said. "In the world after Sept. 11, that was a risk we could not afford to take.''
But the Democrats jumped on this latest damning report. Senator Carl Levin grilled Duelfer in his appearance before the committee Wednesday afternoon.
Levin said Duelfer's report undercut the two main arguments for war: That Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and that he would share them with terrorists like al Qaeda.
Duelfer said his report found that aluminum tubes suspected of being used for enriching uranium for use in a nuclear bomb were likely destined for conventional rockets and that there is no evidence Iraq sought uranium abroad after 1991.
Both findings contradict claims made by Bush and other top administration officials before the war.
The report also follows comments from the former U.S. administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, who said the United States didn't have enough troops in Iraq to prevent a breakdown in security after Saddam was toppled.