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No Hard WMD Proof, '02 Report Said

IRAQ: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, during a news conference at the Pentagon Tuesday, April 1, 2003, denied the U.S. is negotiating an end to the war with Iraq Rumsfeld denied that the United States is negotiating an end to war with Iraq. ``The only thing the coalition will discuss with this regime is their unconditional surrender,'' he said.
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The U.S. Defense Department's intelligence service reported last September that it had no reliable evidence that Iraq had chemical agents in weaponized form, officials said Friday.

A White House spokesman says a small portion of the still-classified report is being taken out of context. He says the entire document's conclusions support the Bush administration's position.

According to excerpts from the study by the Defense Intelligence Agency, which were reported by Bloomberg, it found there was "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."

The briefing paper said Iraq "probably" had illegal chemical stockpiles, and also reported that Iraq was thought to have biological weapons, but said the amount and condition of the weaponized germs was uncertain.

The existence of the DIA report was first disclosed by U.S. News & World Report. Two Pentagon officials who had read the summary confirmed Friday that it said DIA had no hard evidence of Iraqi chemical weapons.

The skeptical study's release in September coincided with Bush administration efforts to mount a public case for the urgency of disarming Iraq, by force if necessary.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and others argued that Saddam Hussein possessed chemical, biological and other weapons and was hiding them.

Two months after major fighting in Iraq ended, U.S. officials have yet to find any chemical or other mass-killing weapons, although they still express confidence that some will turn up.

Despite searches at some 300 sites, and the capture of several high-ranking Iraqis, no evidence has turned up. Two suspected mobile biological weapons factories were found, but showed no sign of having been used to create weapons.

Committees in the U.S. Senate and House, the British parliament and the Danish government are looking into the prewar claims.

On Friday, the Senate Armed Services convened a closed-door hearing focusing on the mission of the 75th Exploitation Task Force, which made the initial effort to find Iraqi weapons of mass destruction at the conclusion of the war, and the follow-on search team, called the Iraq Survey Group.

Rumsfeld recently raised the possibility that Iraq destroyed the weapons before the war started March 20. He also has said he believes some remain and will be discovered when U.S. search teams find knowledgeable Iraqis who are willing to disclose the locations.

The president addressed the issue in a visit to Qatar on Thursday. "We're on the look. We'll reveal the truth," Mr. Bush said.

The DIA's analysis is just one piece of an intelligence mosaic that Rumsfeld and other senior administrations could consider in making their own assessment of Iraq's chemical and biological weapons capability.

However, the CIA is conducting an internal review — which Rumsfeld commissioned well before the war — into the accuracy of its prewar intelligence.

Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix said he was surprised and disappointed at the low quality of British and U.S. intelligence.

Blix also said it was too soon to judge whether Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, and it would be no surprise if coalition forces in Iraq found chemical or biological arms.

However, Blix, in an interview Thursday with British Broadcasting Corp. radio, said U.N. inspectors found only three sites useful, and they did not relate to weapons.

Blix said he was surprised by that because, "we had been told that they would give the best intelligence they had, so I thought: 'My God, if this is the best intelligence they had and we find nothing, what about the rest?'"

Blix has offered to return to Iraq to resume weapons checks but the United States does not support that.

For the first time since the war started Friday, a separate team of U.N. experts arrived in Iraq. They were International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors, not weapons hunters, sent to help U.S. forces secure a known nuclear site that American forces had left unguarded. It has been looted and nuclear material may be missing.

The United States tried to keep the IAEA out of postwar Iraq. But it reluctantly agreed to allow the agency's return under pressure from the arms-control community, which was concerned about the nuclear plant's safety and U.S. capability to secure the area and account for its contents.

The Pentagon has stressed that the IAEA visit would be a one-time event, limited the number of IAEA staff to seven and said the assessment would have to be completed within two weeks.