WMD questions linger

The interim report on Iraqi weapons has left critics fuming, but Kay finds surprises.

"No weapons of mass destruction have yet been found in Iraq."

That was the big headline. But David Kay, leader of the Iraqi Survey Group, says there is much more to the report he delivered to Congress last week on Saddam Hussein's weapons programs.

"We've only been at work for three months," Dr. Kay says, and "there is a remarkable record of what was concealed from UN inspectors and not declared."

After presenting a classified briefing to House and Senate Intelligence and Armed Services Committees on Thursday and Friday, Kay later spoke with reporters in a conference call set up by the Central Intelligence Agency.

Kay cited efforts by the Hussein regime in all three areas of WMD - biological, chemical, and nuclear. And he talked about what surprised him most during the initial stages of the search.

• Iraq paid North Korea $10 million in late 2002 for technology related to its No Dong missile program and other "nonmissile related activities."

• The missile program received the heaviest foreign assistance, he said, both in terms of private companies and countries. Some were European, but he wouldn't name them because of ongoing investigations.

• A weapons-lab network was embedded within the Iraqi Intelligence Service.

• Iraq continued to produce liquid fuel for Scud missiles even though the regime said it no longer possessed the missile that became infamous during the 1991 Gulf War.

• Iraq's nuclear program was rudimentary, at best. It would have taken five to seven years from start-up to production of a weapon.

• No evidence was found to indicate Africa provided uranium to Iraq, as President Bush stated in his State of the Union speech. Kay said that one other African country, which he would not name, did offer to supply Iraq with uranium, but did not follow through. [Editor's note: The original version misstated a word from Pres. Bush's State of the Union speech.]

• No evidence was found that two Iraqi mobile labs found last summer were used to produce bio or chemical weapons.

Kay indicates that 1999 was a crucial date for Iraq. It was then that a "change of behavior" was seen in the Iraqi regime.

Kay says that the Iraqis interviewed by his weapons team thought that Saddam felt he could not wait any longer for sanctions to end.

Yet many senior members of Congress as well as outside experts say it is now apparent that Iraq did not have the WMD that the US and Britain estimated it had. However, it did have the intention of either acquiring or continuing to develop them.

"All the evidence points to a rudimentary capability, if that," says Joseph Cirincione, director of the nonproliferation project at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. "And that Iraq was not an imminent threat to the US."

Kay's findings arrived in a highly charged atmosphere here. The Bush administration has tried to buttress its claim that the Hussein regime was an "imminent" threat, while requesting Congress to approve an additional $87 billion to help rebuild Iraq, including a $600-million increase for Kay's continuing WMD investigation.

Criticisms of the Kay report came from both sides of the congressional aisle. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R) of Kansas told reporters he was "not pleased" with Kay's interim report.

Sen. Carl Levin (D) of Michigan, the ranking member of the Senate's Armed Services Committee, says: "This isn't an issue about intentions or what the hopes were or what the plans were or what the programs were."

The senator continued: "What took us to war were statements about weapons of mass destruction in the possession of Saddam Hussein and the threat of their imminent use."

Still, the Bush administration contends it did the right thing in removing the Hussein regime. "We're more convinced by the Kay report that we did the right thing," Secretary of State Colin Powell said.

Kay said the biggest surprise to him was Hussein's effort to develop missiles. The HY-2 coastal- defense cruise missile's range was increased from 100 kilo- meters to 150 to 180 kilometers. There were also efforts to boost the HY-2 to reach a 1,000 kilometer range - enough to target many Middle East capitals.

In addition, Iraq tried to procure missile technology from North Korea, whose No Dong missile has a range of about 800 miles. Kay says they discovered that Iraq "concluded a contract" for the No Dong with North Korea in 2002. "The Iraqis advanced the North Koreans $10 million."

But Kay says when Iraqis demanded the technology transfer, "North Korea said, 'Sorry, but there's so much US attention on us that we cannot deliver it.'"

One working hypothesis on why WMD have not been found is that scientists working for Hussein deceived him. The classified report calls it "red-on-red" deception, Kay says.

Hampering the search are threats against Iraqi scientists. One Iraqi scientist was shot in the head. Another "took six bullets," but lived. Kay's group no longer meets so publicly with sources.

Kay's investigation could take another six to nine months.

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