WASHINGTON (AFP) – An interim report on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction by former weapons inspector David Kay is not expected to reach any firm conclusions or rule anything in or out, the CIA said.
Kay, who is leading the US effort to account for Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programs, was still receiving information from the field and his report will be only be the “first progress report,” CIA spokesman Bill Harlow said in a statement.
“We expect it will reach no firm conclusions, nor will it rule anything in or out,” he said.
The BBC, citing a US government official, said the Iraq Survey Group that Kay leads will report that it has found not even a “minute” amount of chemical, biological or nuclear materials, nor any delivery systems nor laboratories for developing such weapons.
The report also will say it is highly unlikely that weapons of mass destruction were squirreled out of Iraq to countries like Syria before the war began, the same source told the BBC.
However, the document will include computer programmes and files and paperwork and pictures suggesting that Saddam’s regime was developing a weapons of mass destruction program, the BBC said.
High expectations have surrounded Kay’s interim report, which is expected soon, because the administration has been unable to explain what happened to Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, the primary US rationale for invading the country and toppling the regime of Saddam Hussein.
But top administration officials, accused by Democrats of hyping intelligence findings to justify the war, have voiced confidence that a massive intelligence gathering effort led by Kay would find evidence that Iraq had active programs on the eve of the war.
As recently as Monday, President George Bush said he believed that Saddam buried or dispersed his weapons before the US-led invasion. But he said it would take Kay “a while” to uncover the truth about what happened to them.
The former heads of the UN disarmament effort, Hans Blix and Rolf Ekeus, have concluded that Iraq probably destroyed its arsenal of chemical and biological weapons after the 1990-1991 Gulf War but pretended to have them to deter attack.
Ekeus said Monday he believed that Iraq’s strategy after 1991 was to maintain the capability to produce the banned weapons, but not actually produce or stockpile them.
US commanders were surprised when their forces found no stockpiles of Iraqi chemical or biological weapons, either as they overran Iraqi positions around Baghdad or in subsquent searches of suspect sites around the country.
The Iraq Survey Group, which includes some 1,400 US and British personnel, was then assembled to try to piece together what happened to the weapons from captured documents, interrogations and tips from Iraqis.
At the end of July, Kay said the search was making “solid progress.”
But top administration officials have sought to play down the issue in recent weeks, emphasizing instead the large scale abuse of human rights by the Iraqi regime as a justification for ousting Saddam.
US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on his return from Iraq earlier this month that he had not even asked Kay whether his search had uncovered weapons of mass destruction.