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Iraq Arms Inspector Says No Illegal Weapons Found So Far

By James Risen

and Judith Miller

The New York Times -- WASHINGTON

The government’s chief weapons inspector in Iraq told Congress on Thursday that his team has failed to find illegal weapons in Iraq after three months of scouring the country, but he said they have discovered some evidence of Saddam Hussein’s intent to develop such weapons and even signs that Baghdad had retained some capacity to do so.

David Kay, the chief inspector named by George Tenet, the director of central intelligence, to coordinate the weapons hunt, informed lawmakers in a series of closed door briefings that “we have not yet found stocks of weapons.” A declassified version of his prepared remarks was made public by the CIA after his appearances.

Kay asked for more time for his search, telling reporters that it might take another six to nine months to reach more definitive conclusions about the existence of Iraq’s weapons. He described his findings as an “interim progress report,” and said it was not “a final reckoning” of Iraq’s illegal weapons programs.“ The Bush administration has asked Congress to provide $600 million to continue the search.

Kay told lawmakers that the Iraq Survey Group, the weapons hunting team that he now leads, has discovered evidence of equipment and suspicious activities that were never declared to U.N. weapons inspectors in the years before the war, according to the declassified statement. He said his team has found signs of Iraqi research and development efforts involving biological warfare agents, signs that Baghdad explored the possibility of chemical weapons production in recent years, and that Saddam retained an interest in acquiring nuclear weapons.

Congressional leaders from both parties expressed concern that Kay’s group had not found proof that Iraq had unconventional weapons on the eve of war.

“I’m not pleased by what I heard today,” said Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., who is chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, one of the three panels that Kay briefed. “I think every American, I think everybody involved in this effort would have hoped by now there would have been a breakthrough,” he added. “There has not been a breakthrough.” He noted that his committee is continuing a review begun earlier this year into prewar intelligence reporting, to determine why the CIA and other agencies were off the mark in their assessments of Iraq’s weapons programs.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., the ranking minority member on the Senate intelligence committee, said that Kay’s report raised fresh doubts about the Bush administration’s policy of pre-emptive war.

At the White House, spokesman Scott McClellan observed that Kay was only presenting a progress report, and that the hunt is not over Iraq’s weapons programs, he added.