WASHINGTON – An upcoming report will contain “a good deal of new information” backing up the Bush administration’s contention that Saddam Hussein pursued weapons of mass destruction, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner, R-Va., said Tuesday.
The administration cited Saddam’s hunger for such weapons as a main reason to invade Iraq last year.
“I’m not suggesting dramatic discoveries,” Warner told reporters, but “bits and pieces that Saddam Hussein was clearly defying” international restrictions, “and he and his government had a continuing interest in maintaining the potential to shift to production of various types of weapons of mass destruction in a short period of time.”
The report is by the civilian head of the Iraq Survey Group, Charles Duelfer, who reports to the CIA director. Initially the report was expected to be done this summer, but instead it will come out in September, Warner said.
Warner said the new information covers “some weapons that predate the first Gulf War that are still around and were used at the time Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons against the Iranians” as well as “remnants of what he was doing himself here in the last several years.” He would not elaborate, saying he didn’t want to pre-empt the report.
The senator made the comments after a closed briefing by Maj. Gen. Keith Dayton, who updated the panel on the Iraq Survey Group’s progress. Dayton returned from Iraq last month after giving up his post as the military head of the hunt for weapons as part of a routine rotation. Marine Brig. Gen. Joseph J. McMenamin became director of the Iraq Survey Group on June 12.
The intelligence community, meanwhile, hopes the trials and interrogations of “high-level detainees” by the new Iraqi government could yield more information about Saddam’s weapons programs, Warner said.
“The Iraqi people are still concerned that some remnants of this program are yet to be found,” Warner said.
A defense official speaking on condition of anonymity Tuesday, said the survey group has not yet found any new evidence of Saddam weapons. While there are “all kinds of documents” showing his intent to produce weapons of mass destruction, there is “no treasure map that shows ‘Here is where the missing munitions are,'” the official said.