Pentagon report found 'no reliable evidence' of WMD in Iraq

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The Independent Online

A report by the Pentagon's intelligence agency concluded last year there was "no reliable evidence" to prove Saddam Hussein had developed chemical weapons - further undermining claims from Washington and London that the Iraqi regime presented a genuine threat to the West.

A leaked copy of the report by the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) reveals that, despite extensive analysis, experts were unable definitively to conclude Iraq was either stockpiling or producing weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The report's contents will add to the considerable pressure Tony Blair and President George Bush face as their pre-war claims come under intense scrutiny.

"There is no reliable information on whether Iraq is producing and stockpiling chemical weapons, or whether Iraq has - or will - establish its chemical warfare agent production facilities," a summary page of the DIA report said. The report does not suggest Iraq did not have WMD. Indeed, it concludes that Iraq "probably" has such stockpiles. But its language is far more circumspect than that of senior Bush administration officials and the President himself, who insisted Iraq not only had large stocks of WMD but it was capable of delivering them in weapons.

On 19 September, for instance, Donald Rumsfeld, the US Defence Secretary, told Congress that Iraq had "amassed large, clandestine stockpiles of chemical weapons, including VX, sarin and mustard gas".

Last summer, speaking to the US Fifth Fleet in Bahrain, Mr Rumsfeld was more explicit. "They have them, and they continue to develop them, and they have weaponised chemical weapons," he said. "They've had an active programme to develop nuclear weapons. It's clear they are a tively developing biological weapons."

The DIA report, entitled Iraq: Key Weapons Facilities - An Operational Support Study, suggests Iraq had developed biological weapons, though it made clear experts were uncertain of the nature of those weapons or how many had been developed. "Iraq is assessed to possess biological agent stockpiles that may be weaponised and ready for use,'' it said. "The size of those stockpiles is uncertain and is subject to debate. The nature and condition of those stockpiles are unknown."

Yesterday, Vice-Admiral Lowell Jacoby, the DIA director, said the summary page - "a single sentence" - ought not to be interpreted that the DIA "doubted the existence of the WMD programme". However, he confirmed the DIA had no hard information on weapons, stockpiles or locations.

Analysts were quick to jump on the summary report, obtained by Bloomberg News, as evidence the US and Britain had overstated the case in regard to Iraq's weapons capability.Jonathan Tucker, a former UN weapons inspector and senior research fellow at the US Institute for Peace, said: "The DIA report suggests that before the Iraq war, the US intelligence community did not have hard evidence that Saddam Hussein possessed large stocks of chemical and biological warfare agents that posed an imminent threat to US national security."

Two months after fighting in Iraq ended, US and British troops have failed to uncover any conclusive proof that Saddam had developed or stock-piled WMD. Congress is currently reviewing the pre-war intelligence and the CIA has ordered its own internal review.