CBSN

U.S., Brits Stick To Their Guns

IRAQ:AMERICA AT WAR: President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, left, smile as they face the media following their overnight war summit at Camp David, the presidential retreat 70 miles north of Washington in Maryland's Catoctin Mountains, Thursday, March 27, 2003.
AP
The Bush administration is insisting that Iraq did have illegal weapons of mass destruction before the war, as its closest European ally, Tony Blair, faces new criticism over claims he made about Iraq's arsenal.

So far, teams hunting Iraq have found none of the large stockpiles for making anthrax or Sarin nerve gas, or the long-range missiles or other weapons that the U.S. and Britain alleged Iraq possessed.

"It's not because they're not there," Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said Thursday. "We do believe they are there."

In Britain, opponents of the war are calling for hearings to determine if Prime Minister Blair lied when he presented a dossier in September that asserted Iraq could deploy weapons of mass destruction in as little as 45 minutes.

The BBC has reported that intelligence agents believe the unconfirmed claim was mentioned for political purposes, something Blair calls "absurd."

Visiting Poland on Friday, Blair asked skeptics to "Have a little patience."

"I have absolutely no doubt at all that we will present the full evidence after we have investigated all the sites, after we've interviewed all the scientists and experts, and this will take place in the coming weeks and months."

In other developments:

  • Ground commander General William Wallace told CBS News Correspondent David Martin the battle against diehard Saddam Hussein supporters is turning into urban guerrilla warfare. "Today we're dealing with an enemy that seems to be falling into the population, taking advantage of his ability to meld into the population," said Wallace.
  • For the first time since the bitter debate over going to war in Iraq, President Bush is due to meet President Jacques Chirac of France at this weekend's Group of Eight summit in Evian, France. Mr. Bush said he hasn't quite forgiven France for trying to block the invasion, but won't let that get in the way of constructive talks.
  • The U.S. military is offering a $25,000 reward to help find an Iraqi prisoner released by mistake. The former Iraqi official is accused of being involved in the murder of thousands of Shiites. Officials say the prisoner hid his identity.
  • The British Defense Ministry says a British soldier has been arrested over allegations of torture involving Iraqi prisoners. The ministry said it had launched an investigation after a newspaper reported that the soldier had a roll of camera film showing an Iraqi detainee bundled up in netting and suspended from a fork-lift truck.
  • Iraq's interim oil chief says the Iraqi Oil Ministry will solicit foreign investment to help it produce and explore for crude, potentially reversing more than 30 years of a government monopoly of the most sensitive part of the industry.
  • Vice President Dick Cheney's former company already has garnered more than $600 million in military work related to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and potentially could earn billions more without having to compete with other companies.

    While polls indicate most Americans are not concerned about the lack of any weapons finds to date, officials in Washington apparently are. The CIA is conducting an in-house review of prewar intelligence that was requested by Rumsfeld in October.

    An intelligence report this week found that two trucks equipped with fermenters seized in Iraq are likely mobile biological weapons labs.

    In a wide-ranging, 45-minute interview Thursday, Mr.Bush — pounding his forefinger on the table for emphasis — seized on the CIA report.

    "We've discovered weapons manufacturing facilities that were condemned by the United Nations — biological laboratories, described by our secretary of state to the whole world, that were not supposed to be there," he said.

    But the report by the CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency was not conclusive and still offers no proof that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction that were ready for use.

    Like Blair, Rumsfeld asked for more time.

    "We never believed that we or inspectors would just trip over them and find them," the defense secretary told Infinity Radio. "We always believed that (Saddam) was so successful at hiding things and denial and deception, that the way we would ultimately find them would be through other people telling us where they were."

    However, some officials seem to be hedging their arguments about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Rumsfeld told an audience Tuesday that weapons may never be found in Iraq, possibly because Saddam destroyed them before the war.

    An architect of the Bush administration's policy in Iraq said that Iraq's alleged illegal weapons arsenal was not the chief reason for going to war.

    "For bureaucratic reasons we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction, because it was one reason everyone could agree on," Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told Vanity Fair magazine.

    He said a better reason was that overthrowing Saddam would allow the United States to remove its troops from Saudi Arabia, thus depriving al Qaeda of one of its recruiting tools.

    On Friday, Blair said the search for weapons is "not the most urgent priority since Saddam is gone," arguing that rebuilding Iraq and addressing humanitarian issues take precedence.