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Saddam's WMD never existed, says chief American arms inspector

By Andrew Buncombe in Washington

24 January 2004: ((The Independent) David Kay, who stood down yesterday as head of the Bush administration's hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, said that he did not believe that any stockpiles of such weapons ever existed. 

Mr Kay, a former UN inspector, said that most of what was going to be found in the hunt for Saddam Hussein's WMD had already been uncovered. The returning of sovereignty to the Iraqis would make the search more difficult, he added. "I don't think they existed," Mr Kay said, referring to Saddam's alleged stockpiles of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. "What everyone was talking about is stockpiles produced after the end of the [1991] Gulf War and I don't think there was a large-scale production programme in the Nineties." 

Mr Kay's comments will be an embarrassment for the Bush administration. Earlier this week the Vice-President, Dick Cheney, one of Washington's most outspoken hawks who led the rallying cry for war insisting that Saddam possessed WMD, said the outcome of the search was not clear. "I think the jury is still out," he said. "It's going to take ... time to look in all of the cubby holes and ammo dumps in Iraq." 

Despite having the resources of more than 1,000 personnel dedicated to the hunt for such weapons, an interim report issued by Mr Kay in October conceded that no weapons had been found, even though there was evidence Iraq had retained the "template" of a weapons programme. 

The Bush administration appears determined to continue its public stance that such weapons could be discovered. 

Donald Anderson, the Labour chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, said that Mr Kay's comments posed serious problems for British and American intelligence agencies. "My understanding is that the President and the Prime Minister were acting on intelligence then available [at the time of deciding to go to war]. So this raises very important questions about the quality of that intelligence," he told BBC's Newsnight. 

A Downing Street spokesman said: "It is important that people are patient and we let the Iraq Survey Group do its work. Their work is continuing and we should await the outcome of that. Our position is unchanged." 

2003 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd

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