Cheney says the threat could not be ignored

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The Independent US

Dick Cheney, the US Vice-President, made a rare public appearance yesterday to defend the invasion of Iraq and the intelligence on which it was based. He said it would have been "irresponsible in the extreme" to ignore the threat posed by Saddam's regime.

In a speech to the conservative American Enterprise Institute think-tank, Mr Cheney made no reference to the Niger uranium controversy. But he quoted from a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) of last autumn which described the purported menace of Saddam's alleged chemical and biological weapons and nuclear ambitions.

The US intelligence agencies judged then then that "Iraq has both germ and chemical weapons as well as missiles with ranges in excess of UN restrictions." If left unchecked, Iraq would "probably have a nuclear weapon within this decade".

Mr Cheney cited the intelligence community's view that the threat from Iraq's unconventional weapons was greater than before the 1991 Gulf War. His remarks are significant because he was accused of exaggerating the danger posed by Iraq and of pressing the CIA to present the case against Saddam in the most alarming light possible.

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