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October 7th 2004 Reaction to the ISG report

(see key findings)

No weapons, no programmes: nothing to justify the invasion

By Rupert Cornwell in Washington, Ben Russell in Khartoum and Anne Penketh

07 October 2004

Destroying the Bush administration's main rationale for war against Iraq, the chief US weapons inspector declared yesterday that Saddam Hussein had neither weapons of mass destruction nor programmes to manufacture them at short notice when the US and its allies invaded in March 2003.

Charles Duelfer told the Senate Armed Services Committee he did not believe that "militarily significant" WMD stockpiles were hidden in Iraq.

He also said that Iraq's nuclear programme was nothing compared to what it had been in 1991, at the time of the previous invasion and amounted to less even than in 1998, when the United Nations weapons inspectors were withdrawn.

Tony Blair sought to minimise the damning conclusion of the report, saying: "This case is a far more complicated situation than many people thought.

"Just as I accept that the evidence now is that there were no stockpiles of actual weapons ready to be deployed, others can be honest and accept that the report also shows that sanctions were not working.

"On the contrary, Saddam Hussein was doing the best to get around those sanctions, with every intention of developing those programmes of weapons of mass destruction ... and there were multiple breaches of the United Nations resolutions, which were the legal justification for the conflict."

The report states that the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) "has not found evidence that Saddam Hussein possessed WMD in 2003", but left open the possibility that some weapons existed in Iraq, "although not of a militarily significant capability".

Before the invasion, US Vice-President Dick Cheney even alleged that the Iraqi dictator was "reconstituting" nuclear weapons. But Mr Duelfer dismissed that thesis.

Despite Saddam's attempt to retain some parts of the programme after 1991, "during the following 12 years, Iraq's ability to produce a weapon decayed".

Mr Duelfer was introducing the ISG's 1,000-plus page report, based on visits to suspect sites, the examination of thousands of pages of documents and interviews with former Iraqi officials involved in weapons programmes. Moreover, it found no evidence that Saddam had secretly transferred weapons or components to Syria.

Saddam is said to have told interrogators that his previous possession and use of chemical and biological weapons was a key reason why he stayed in power. WMD enabled him halt Iranian attacks in the 1980-1988 Iran/Iraq war, and deterred the US and its allies from marching on Baghdad in 1991.

However, Mr Duelfer did say that only timely Allied action this year had prevented chemical weapons experts from Saddam's regime from linking up with insurgents in Iraq.

He warned that lethal skills developed by Iraqi scientists "could be transferred to other hands". With WMD proven to be a fiction, and increasing doubts about ties between his regime and Osama bin Laden's al-Qa'ida, the risk of proliferation of WMD expertise has become the White House's main argument in defence of the invasion.

After 11 September 2001, Mr Bush said yesterday, the US had to go after sources of weapons for terrorist groups. "We had to take a hard look at every place where terrorists might get those weapons," he said. "One regime stood out - the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein." According to US officials, ISG investigators found that Iraq had had plans for missiles with ranges of up to 1,000km, far greater than the 150km maximum imposed by the UN.

But Mr Duelfer said that "while Saddam wanted a long-range missile, little work had been done on warheads".

Questioned by Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, Mr Duelfer conceded that aluminum tubes bought by Saddam and once suspected of being used for enriching uranium to make a nuclear device were probably intended for conventional rockets.

Nor was there evidence that Iraq sought uranium abroad after 1991. Both statements contradict claims by top US officials before the war. Mr Bush himself contended, in his 2003 State of the Union message, that Iraq had tried to buy yellow-cake uranium in Africa.

"So not only did he not have weapons, he chose not to have them," said Mr Levin. "That's 180 degrees different from what the Bush administration said."

Saddam apparently stopped development because further components could only be obtained once UN sanctions were lifted.

He had been doing his best to wriggle free of sanctions through illegal financial and procurement schemes, the report states. Indeed, it lists foreign companies that violated the UN sanctions, many of them reportedly coming from the US, as well as France, Russia, China and Poland.


Jeremy Corbyn Labour MP for Islington North

"Hans Blix was denied time to go back in to Iraq 19 months ago. Since then, many thousands have died allegedly in a war for WMDs and we now have confirmation for the illegal occupying forces that there are no such weapons. Those that supported the war should hang their heads in shame. I look forward to Tony Blair being put to close scrutiny in Parliament about this next week."

Greg Dyke, former BBC director general

"I don't think there was anyone who thought otherwise. I am sure it comes as no surprise. There are many questions that remain unanswered about the British Government's use of intelligece, claims arising out of the Butler report, in particular who removed the caveats on the intelligence ... I suspect we shall never get full answers to these questions."

Nicholas Soames, shadow Defence Secretary

"I don't think it alters the case for war one way or another personally, but I think it is difficult for the Americans and for the Prime Minister to explain."

Scott McClellan, White House spokesman

"[The report concludes] that Saddam Hussein had the intent and the capability, that he was pursuing an aggressive strategy to bring down the sanctions, the international sanctions, imposed by the United Nations through illegal financing procurement schemes. The report will continue to show that he was a gathering threat that needed to be taken seriously, that it was a matter of time before he was going to begin pursuing those weapons of mass destruction."

Louise Christian, human rights lawyer representing British prisoners in Guantanamo Bay

"This means that had Hans Blix been allowed to stay and complete his task, the war would not have happened. Lots of people, including myself, think Saddam Hussein should have been removed but I do not think we needed a war with all its civilian deaths. The US had already decided to go to war to complete what happened in 1992, or so they saw it, so the war was a psychological need on the part of the presidency. Both the US and UK have got to be accountable for waging an illegal war. They have brought international law into disrepute, undermined the authority of the UN and committed war crimes."

Anthony Scrivener QC, former chair of the Bar

"I have always taken the view that the war was illegal and this confirms what I felt from day one, and what has been gradually creeping out in bits by various ministers. Now it has been confirmed by an independent report. I feel now that Tony Blair's credibility has been shot to bits."

Michael Howard, the Conservative leader

"I think the world is a safer place without Saddam Hussein. I also think it is very important to tell the country the truth. Although I think it was right to go to war, I don't think the Prime Minister told us the truth about the intelligence he had received."

Reg Keys, whose son Lance Cpl Thomas Keys, 20, was one of six Military Police killed by a mob of Iraqis

"The Prime Minister fed us a pack of lies. He told us we were going to war to defend our shores from a WMD strike. My son was told he was going off to fight a country that was threatening to use WMD. Now we know he was lied to."

Louise Ellman, Labour MP for Liverpool Riverside

"I don't think the findings of this report make a great deal of difference at this stage. The survey group also found that Saddam was planning to start producing weapons again once sanctions had been removed. I stand by Tony Blair's position to go to war."

Ann Clwyd, Labour MP for Cynon Valley and Tony Blair's special representative in Iraq

"That (WMD) was never my argument. I always believed that the regime of Saddam Hussein had to be tackled on human rights grounds because of the hundreds of thousands of people who died in the prisons, disappeared or were tortured. I had campaigned for 25 years and knew more than most about what was going on in Iraq. So when the decision was finally made to go to war, obviously I supported the Government."

Iqbal Sacranie, Secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain

"These findings are not a great surprise. Robin Cook in his masterly resignation speech on the eve of war had practically said as much. Today's official pronouncement will serve to give added conviction to the tens of millions in the Muslim world who believe that senior figures in the Bush administration misled us about the true aims of the war. Clearly this administration is intent on the economic and military domination of the heartlands of Islam. It is a recipe for disaster."

Rose Gentle, mother of fusilier Gordon Gentle who was killed in Iraq

"Tony Blair knew there was no WMD but he just agreed with George Bush. He has basically sent young kids to be killed for nothing."He said he wanted to make it a safer place but it is not. Young innocent Iraqis are getting killed over there as well. I think Tony Blair should resign."

Paul Bigley, whose brother Ken has been a hostage in Iraq for three weeks

"The war is illegal. It was based on ill-founded information and ill judgement. Tony Blair apologised but that is not enough. You do not make mistakes of this calibre and just get away with it. There are people being killed out there. It is time we had a mechanism in place for withdrawal."

Robin Cook, Former Foreign Secretary

"It establishes that Iraq had no stockpile, no biological agents, no chemical feedstocks, no plants to manufacture them and no delivery systems to fire them. Saddam was no threat to us and had no weapons of mass destruction to pass to terrorists. Brushing the UN inspectors aside in order to go to war on false intelligence was a colossal blunder."

Tobias Ellwood, prospective Tory candidate for Bourne-mouth East. Brother Jon killed by the Bali bomb

"I don't believe we were right to go to war and we have taken our eye away from the real problems of terrorism, in fact we have compounded them by opening up a new front. I have no doubt Saddam Hussein had to be dealt with some way but was very uncomfortable we didn't go with UN support, thus alienating a lot of countries, particularly Muslim countries who would otherwise have contributed to rebuilding Iraq."

The final judgement

* Iraqi Survey Group: There were no WMD

* Saddam less of a threat in 2003 than in 1998

* Bush and Blair's case for war is demolished

07 October 2004

Now we finally know what we had long suspected. When US and British forces invaded Iraq, Saddam Hussein had no chemical weapons; he had no biological weapons; he had no nuclear weapons. In fact, he had no banned weapons at all. That is the considered judgement of the Iraq Survey Group, set up by President Bush to prove his case for removing the Iraqi dictator, and released in Washington last night.

The ISG report proves precisely the opposite. The much-maligned international regime of weapons containment had functioned exactly as it was supposed to. After his failed effort to annex Kuwait, Saddam Hussein was progressively disarmed.

Establishing this truth has required half a dozen top-level inquiries on either side of the Atlantic, the spending of millions of dollars and pounds, the dispatch of hundreds of UN weapons inspectors over the years, and - since the removal of Saddam Hussein - the work of 1,200 inspectors who scoured the country under the auspices of the US-directed Iraq Survey Group.

Oh yes, and it took a war, a war in which thousands of Iraqis, more than 1,000 Americans and more than 100 British and soldiers of other nationalities have died. Iraq is a devastated country that risks sliding into anarchy. And what has it all been for?

After the war officially ended, President Bush and his chief ally, Tony Blair, kept telling us to wait patiently for the ISG to report. In that time, they have changed their story many times over, editing the words, trimming the sense for the possibility that the threat might not have been as great as they had thought.

Perhaps there were no weapons, Mr Bush said, but he would have gone to war anyway. Even if there were no actual stockpiles, Mr Blair and his ministers said, there were "weapons programmes". Last week, the programmes themselves evaporated. Mr Blair told us (almost) straight the intelligence was wrong. "I can apologise for the information that turned out to be wrong," he said, without actually doing so, "but I can't sincerely, at least, apologise for removing Saddam."

Mr Bush's case for war is also unravelling. His Defence Secretary let slip this week that there was no "hard evidence" for a link between Saddam Hussein and al-Qa'ida. The second US viceroy of Iraq, Paul Bremer, said US troop numbers had been grossly inadequate for the job they had to do. Troop numbers had been an ideological decision.

Now that the ISG has reported, it is clear beyond doubt that Iraq's deadly weapons capacity boiled down to a glint, if that, in Saddam Hussein's eye. In one of the more shameless examples of pre-emptive "spinning", even from this Government so addicted to "spin", the Foreign Secretary told us yesterday that, "the report highlights the nature of the threat from Saddam in terms of his intentions and capabilities in even starker terms than we have seen before". Try parsing that. Try translating it into plain English.

The ISG report tells us in no uncertain terms that the invasion of Iraq was grounded in little more substantial than figments of a fevered, post-11 September, imagination. The international "consensus" that Saddam Hussein constituted a global threat was incorrect. So much for UN Resolution 1441 that gave the US and Britain their spurious excuse for war.

There was a failure of intelligence, on either side of the Atlantic, of historic proportions, the reasons for which need to be identified as a matter of urgency. More gravely, though, there was a historic failure of judgement on the part of a small group of national leaders. Trust us, they told us. They were credulous, they failed to consult broadly enough, they failed to exercise due responsibility - and they were wrong.

Spanish voters have already given their verdict on the judgement of their former prime minister. Australians have their chance this weekend. Americans should use their vote in less than four weeks' time to express their disgust with a President who rushed their country into so unnecessary and damaging a war. We British will probably have to wait at least until next year.

In the meantime, the very least that Mr Blair should offer is a full apology. An apology for asking us to trust him so unconditionally. An apology for the lives of the British servicemen and the Iraqis that have been so needlessly lost. An apology for his judgement that turned out to be so flawed on a matter so crucial as peace and war. The final verdict will then rest, as it should, with the voters.;sessionid=M40SMQHKPWTDLQFIQMFCM54AVCBQYJVC?xml=/news/2004/10/07/wmd07.xml&sSheet=/portal/2004/10/07/ixportaltop.html&secureRefresh=true&_requestid=29187

WMD: the final verdict
By Alec Russell in Washington and Andrew Sparrow in Addis Ababa
(Filed: 07/10/2004)

America's chief weapons inspector in Iraq concluded yesterday that Saddam Hussein had no stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, had no means to produce them and posed a diminishing threat at the time of last year's invasion.

His 1,500-page report was a comprehensive demolition of the main reason stated by America and Britain for going to war: the threat of Iraqi biological, chemical or nuclear weapons.

But it also concluded that Saddam did want to manufacture weapons of mass destruction and was trying to subvert international sanctions. There was also evidence of "idle" programmes that could have been revived.

Those conclusions were seized on in London and Washington last night to try to justify the invasion.

Officially the hunt for Iraqi WMD continues, with officials turning their attention to thousands of as yet unread documents. But the report by Charles Duelfer, the head of the CIA-led Iraq Survey Group, effectively ends an 18-month post-war search for banned weaponry.

The report, delivered to Congress, concluded that Saddam's weapons programmes were less advanced in March 2003 - on the eve of the invasion - than in 1998 when international weapons inspectors left the country. It also found that Saddam's nuclear weapons programme had deteriorated since the Gulf war in 1991.

But Mr Duelfer said at the start of the new millennium Saddam was "making progress in eroding sanctions - a lot of progress", and that had it not been for the September 11 attacks "things would have taken a very different course for the regime".

Most senior members of the regime assumed that weapons programmes, including nuclear, would begin in earnest when sanctions ended, "and sanctions were eroding".

The report cites eye-catching testimony from Saddam himself which will provide some solace to President George W Bush and Tony Blair as they defend their decision to go to war.

Saddam boasted to his debriefers after his capture last December that his weapons of mass destruction kept the United States and the coalition from invading in the 1991 war and also kept Iran at bay.

The Prime Minister, who was visiting Ethiopia following a trip to Sudan, came under fresh pressure at Westminster.

Sir Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrats' foreign affairs spokesman, said the report backed the case that Saddam should have been contained and not overthrown.

Speaking in Addis Ababa, Mr Blair said he "welcomed" the report. It did not alter his belief that the war was justified.

He said that just as he had had to accept that it appeared there were no "stockpiles of actual weapons ready to be deployed, I hope others have the honesty to accept that the report also shows that sanctions were not working, that on the contrary Saddam Hussein was doing his best to get round those sanctions and had every intention of redeveloping those programmes and weapons of mass destruction".

President Bush, facing a fierce fight for re-election amid growing public disquiet about the news from Iraq, mounted a passionate defence of the invasion. He said that after the September 11 terrorist attacks he had no choice but to tackle perceived threats to America's security.

Mr Bush told a rally: "There was a real risk that Saddam Hussein would pass weapons or materials or information to terrorist networks. That was a risk we could not take."

Mr Duelfer delivered his findings to the Senate armed services committee at a time when Mr Bush was on the defensive over Iraq after a series of blows on his record .

Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman, said the report showed that "Saddam Hussein was a threat we needed to take seriously" and he retained the "intent and capability to produce WMD". But Mr Bush's opponents said that before the war the administration was far more specific. In a key speech in October 2002 preparing America for war, Mr Bush said Iraq "possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons.

"We have also discovered through intelligence that Iraq has a growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons across broad areas."

At that time, the view that Saddam possessed WMD was shared across the political spectrum in America and even at the United Nations, a centre of opposition to the war. But in recent months evidence has been growing that the administration and the CIA turned a blind eye to caveats and uncertainties in the intelligence analysis that primed their pronouncements and the drive to war.

Mr Duelfer also said his team had countered the threat of a connection between Saddam's chemical weapons scientists and the insurgents fighting American-led forces in Iraq.

"I believe we got ahead of this problem through a series of raids throughout the spring and summer," he said.

Mr Duelfer was appointed in January after the resignation of his predecessor, David Kay, who shook Washington with his conclusions that "we were almost all wrong" about Saddam's weapons programmes.,,173-1298025_2,00.html

October 07, 2004

Saddam 'saw weapons as a means to advance his political ambitions'

By Tom Baldwin

Report concludes that WMD were a tool of a regime whose priority was retaining arms expertise

THE 1,200-page report published last night by the CIA gives the fullest answer yet to the bitterly-contested questions over Saddam Hussein’s weapons programme.

The document, written by Charles Duelfer, the CIA weapons inspector, confirmed the findings of David Kay, his predecessor as head of the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), who resigned last year having found no hard evidence of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) at the time of the coalition’s invasion.

But the report goes on to reflect on Saddam’s motives and ambitions, suggesting he wanted to revive the weapons programme after achieving his primary objective of lifting United Nations sanctions. Mr Duelfer also provides startling evidence that Saddam’s regime was using the UN Oil-for-Food programme to undermine sanctions by rewarding its international allies. Vouchers worth millions of dollars were allocated to senior politicians, officials and corporate figures around the world, while oil contracts.


The reports says: “WMD was an integral element in the range of tools Saddam used to advance his ambitions . . . WMD was not an end in itself.”

Mr Duelfer suggests that understanding the contradictions of the regime has been like “the search for extraterrestrial intelligence”, pointing out that Saddam’s decision-making and documentation do not resemble that of any Western government. Saddam saw himself as leader of the Arab world, as well as being acutely aware of the historic rivalry and threat from Iran, “especially because it was pursuing the very capabilities on WMD which he was denied”. He was also “rankled” over the status of the Gulf states, and mixed hostility to America with attempts to make a deal with the US.

Saddam’s desire for prestige fuelled his efforts to acquire WMD — he did not want to be second to Iran in the race to build a nuclear bomb. The report says that Saddam’s regime of terror fostered deep distrust among his officials. Mr Duelfer complains that his ISG suffered the same problems as the former Iraqi dictator in “not knowing if senior advisers were telling the truth”, while Saddam developed a sophisticated system for avoiding detection.

Mr Duelfer suggests that Saddam had a positive experience of WMD, both to counter internal insurgency and repel Iran’s “human wave attacks” in the 1980s.

There is evidence that he also believed his WMD stockpiles may have stopped the US from entering Baghdad in the Gulf War. The report says he used chemical weapons against a Shia uprising just two months before the first UN inspections began in the summer of 1991.


The report says that in January 1991, Iraq was a few years away from producing a nuclear weapon, but coalition bombing during the Gulf War destroyed much of its capability. The imposition of UN sanctions and inspections teams after the war further hobbled the programme.

The report says: “It appears Saddam shifted tactics to preserve what he could of this programme (scientific talent, dual-use equipment and designs) — while simultaneously deciding to dispose of the weapons. It now appears clear that Saddam . . . eliminated the existing stocks of WMD during the course of the summer of 1991 in support of the primary objective of getting rid of sanctions . . .(this) was a tactical retreat in his ongoing struggle.”

The report concludes: “The ISG has not found evidence that Saddam Hussein possessed WMD stock in 2003” but it was possible on the basis of some interviews and documents discovered that there was still insignificant weapons material.”


 The report says: 'From the evidence available through the actions and statements of a range of Iraqis, it seems clear that the guiding theme for WMD was to sustain the intellectual capacity achieved over so many years at such a great cost and to be in a position to produce again with as short a lead time as possible. Saddam continued to see the utility of WMD. He explained that he purposely gave an ambiguous impression as a deterrent to Iran. He gave explicit direction to maintain the intellectual capabilities. As UN sanctions eroded there was a concomitant expansion of activities that could support full WMD reactivation.'

Even at his last ministers meeting in March 2003 Saddam gave those attending the impression 'that he had some kind of secret weapon up his sleeve'. Mr Duelfer adds: 'Virtually no senior Iraqi believed that Saddam had forsaken WMD. Evidence suggests that, as resources became available and the constraint of sanctions decayed, there was a direct expansion of activity that would have the effect of supporting future WMD reconstitution.'

The report adds that there was 'no formal written strategy or plan for the revival of WMD after sanctions'. Instead, his lieutenants understood WMD revival was his goal.


The report said that as soon as this programme began in 1996 it became a “burgeoning source of real disposable income” as revenues increased from $250 million in 1996 to $2.76 billion in 2001. This allowed “ample opportunities for corruption (which) served the objectives of escaping . . . sanctions”.

“He gave vocal Iraqi supporters and willing influential UN officials lucrative oil allocations” while emphasising the suffering of his population. The report says that he gave allies a “moral rationalisation” for backing the regime. This dual approach is reflected in his answer to a US interrogator earlier this year, who asked him why he did not use WMD in the first Gulf War. Saddam is quoted as saying: “Do you think we are mad? What would the world have thought of us? We would have discredited those who have supported us.”

Mr Duelfer claims the strategy worked with countries, as well as individuals and was “successful to the point where sitting members of the Security Council were actively violating the resolutions passed by the Security Council”. His report says: “France, Russia and Syria (then a member of the Security Council) were all . . . supporting Iraq in sanctions debates at the United Nations. From Baghdad the long struggle to outlast the containment policy seemed tantalisingly close . . . they had firm allies and it appeared the United States was in retreat.”

What wrecked the plan was the September 11, 2001 attacks on America, the significance of which “Saddam did not immediately understand”. He was still trying to make a bargain even when it should have been apparent “it was not a stable situation and Saddam realised his position too late”. Mr Duelfer says the fruitless search for WMD since the war has taken the ISG underwater into lakes and rivers, it has been hampered by the fear of witnesses, looting of key sites and the risks posed by insurgency.

But he acknowledges: “Many may argue with the interpretation given here . . . this will not be the last word on the Iraqi experience with WMD”.

Report concludes no WMD in Iraq

Iraq had no stockpiles of biological, chemical or nuclear weapons before last year's US-led invasion, the chief US weapons inspector has concluded.

Iraq Survey Group head Charles Duelfer said Iraq's nuclear capability had decayed not grown since the 1991 war.

But in a 1,000-page report his group said Saddam Hussein intended to resume production of banned weapons when UN sanctions were lifted.

The US and UK used allegations of Iraqi WMDs as a key reason for going war.

It is also clear that there was every intention on Saddam's part to develop weapons and that he did not have any intention of complying with the UN resolutions
Tony Blair
UK Prime Minister

But despite the lack of actual weapons, the White House said the report showed Saddam Hussein's intent and capability and justifies the decision to go to war.

Democrats, on the other hand, used the report to attack the Bush administration, claiming the president misled the American people.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said that while he now accepted that Iraq held no stockpiles of WMD ready to be deployed at the time of the invasion, the report showed that UN sanctions had not been working.

Key findings in the report:

  • "The ISG has not found evidence that Saddam possessed WMD stocks in 2003, but [there is] the possibility that some weapons existed in Iraq, although not of a militarily significant capability."

  • "There is an extensive, yet fragmentary and circumstantial body of evidence suggesting that Saddam pursued a strategy to maintain a capability to return to WMD after sanctions were lifted... "

  • "The problem of discerning WMD in Iraq is highlighted by the pre-war misapprehensions of weapons which were not there. Distant technical analysts mistakenly identified evidence and drew incorrect conclusions."

'Unaffordable risk'

The ISG also published a list of people and groups to whom Saddam Hussein allegedly offered cheap oil in return for their support in trying to get UN sanctions lifted.

Many on the list - drawn from official Iraqi documents - are from Russia, France and China - countries which opposed the war in Iraq.

Saddam Hussein may be guilty of a number of dreadful things, but thought crime - is this a new legal precedent?
Cameron Haig, New York

The BBC's Adam Brookes in Washington says the report will be used by both sides in the US election race - while laying to rest the myth of WMDs it will inflame the argument over whether Iraq under Saddam Hussein constituted a true threat.

President Bush again defended last year's invasion, though he made no reference to the report.

He told supporters on his election campaign trail that the world was better off without Saddam Hussein, and the risk of him passing weapons of mass destruction (WMD) to terror groups was "a risk we could not afford to take".

But the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, Senator Carl Levin, said Mr Duelfer's findings undercut the government's main arguments for war.

"We did not go to war because Saddam had future intentions to obtain weapons of mass destruction," Mr Levin said.

High political stakes

Mr Blair said the report showed that Saddam Hussein had planned to develop WMD.

Set up in May 2003
First leader, David Kay, quit in Jan 2004 stating WMD would not be found in Iraq
New head, Charles Duelfer appointed by CIA
1,200 experts from the US, Britain and Australia
HQ in Washington, offices in Baghdad and Qatar

"I welcome the report because I think it will show us that it is far more of a complicated situation than people thought," he told reporters during a trip to Ethiopia.

Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister, Barhem Saleh, said anyone who doubted that Saddam Hussein had WMDs only needed to visit Halabja - where the former Iraq dictator had gassed thousands of Kurds.

But former chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix said he hoped Mr Blair and Mr Bush would now admit that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake.

"Had we had a few months more [of inspections before the war], we would have been able to tell both the CIA and others that there were no weapons of mass destruction [at] all the sites that they had given to us," he said, quoted by the Associated Press news agency.

The ISG's verdict has been widely anticipated since the former head of the group, David Kay, resigned in January, and following the leaking of a draft copy of the report last month.

The group plans to continue translating and evaluating an estimated 10,000 boxes of documents seized in Iraq.,2763,1321538,00.html Iraq had no WMD, inspectors conclude

Julian Borger in Washington
Thursday October 7, 2004
The Guardian

Saddam Hussein destroyed his last weapons of mass destruction more than a decade ago and his capacity to build new ones had been dwindling for years by the time of the Iraq invasion, according to a comprehensive US report released yesterday.

The report, the culmination of an intensive 15-month search by 1,200 inspectors from the CIA's Iraq Survey Group (ISG), concluded that Saddam had ambitions to restart at least chemical and nuclear programmes once sanctions were lifted.

However, concrete plans do not appear to have been laid down, let alone set in motion. Nor did Saddam issue direct verbal orders to develop weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The main evidence of his intentions are his own cryptic remarks, and the meaning his aides inferred from them.

The ISG conclusions, delivered to Congress yesterday, are badly timed for George Bush's re-election bid, as they starkly contradict his pre-war claims as well as statements he has made on the campaign trail.

Even in recent days the president has insisted that, although Iraq had no WMD at the time of the war, it was a "gathering threat" which had to be confronted. Instead the ISG found Saddam represented a diminishing threat.

However, Charles Duelfer, the head of the ISG and the report's chief author, said that by late 2001, when the international embargo on Iraq was tightened, it was clear sanctions would not have contained Saddam for much longer.

Mr Duelfer told a Senate committee yesterday the Saddam regime "had made progress in eroding sanctions, and had it not been for September 11, things would have taken a very different turn for the regime". He pointed out the report was comprehensive but "not final" as a team of 900 linguists were still sifting through a mountain of documents.

But Mr Duelfer, a former UN weapons inspector, added: "I still do not expect that militarily significant WMD stocks are hidden in Iraq."

Tony Blair said that the report showed Saddam was seeking to develop weapons of mass destruction and had retained key scientists to do so.

Mr Blair said in Ethiopia that the report showed that "the situation is far more complicated than many thought. Just as I have had to accept that the evidence now shows that there were not stockpiles of actual weapons ready to deploy, I hope others will have the honesty to accept that the report also shows that sanctions were not working. On the contrary Saddam was doing his best to get round those sanctions".

Iraq had pesticide plants and other chemical facilities which could have been converted to the production of chemical weapons, the ISG found, but there was no clear evidence of such plans.

Meanwhile, Saddam appears to have lost interest altogether in biological weapons. "ISG found no direct evidence that Iraq, after 1996, had plans for a new BW [biological warfare] programme or was conducting BW-specific work for military purposes," the report concluded, adding that "there appears to be a complete absence of discussion or even interest in BW at the presidential level".

Iraq would therefore "have faced great difficulty in re-establishing an effective BW agent production capability".

As far as making a nuclear bomb was concerned, Mr Duelfer said Saddam "was further away in 2003 than he was in 1991. So the nuclear programme was decaying steadily".

Mr Duelfer's team did find evidence that Saddam wanted to restart his weapons programmes if the United Nations embargo on his country was lifted. However, none of that evidence was on paper. The primary source was the imprisoned dictator himself.

According to Mr Duelfer, Saddam saw WMD primarily as a counterbalance to Iran's programmes. The ousted dictator reportedly told his interrogators "he would do whatever it took to offset the Iranian threat, making it clear he was referring to Iran's nuclear capability", Mr Duelfer said.

He suggested that only the ousted leader knew what his weapons plans were and that even close aides were uncertain whether Iraq had WMD or not.

The Duelfer report found that there had been no "identifiable group of WMD policy makers or planners separate from Saddam.

"Instead, his lieutenants understood WMD revival was his goal from their long association with Saddam and his infrequent but firm, verbal comments and directions to them."

In the 12 years between the first and second Gulf wars, however, an American official who helped compile the report said, it was clear that UN sanctions had been effective in persuading Saddam to disarm.

Mr Duelfer said Saddam's "prime objective was the termination of UN sanctions on Iraq. And he weighed all policy actions and steps for their impact on this overarching objective".

Saddam apparently believed WMD had stopped the US marching on Baghdad in 1991 and had prevented defeat by Iran.

A separate CIA report, leaked to the US press this week, severely weakened the Bush claim of a link between Baghdad and al-Qaida. It found no clear evidence of Iraq harbouring Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian terrorist believed to be behind many of the attacks and now holding the British hostage, Kenneth Bigley.

In all, 1,625 US and UN inspectors were working in Iraq for two years - from November 2002 to September 2004 - at a cost of over $1bn. They searched nearly 1,700 sites.