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US weapons inspector puts Bush in a spot

October 07, 2004 23:37 IST

Companies in several countries, including India, Italy and Turkey, may have sold former Iraq dual purpose equipment that could be converted for the production of non-conventional weapons, US Weapons Inspector Charles A Duelfer has said.

Througout the United Nations oil-for-food programme, Iraq used a clandestine oil-allocation voucher programme that granted oil certificates to people that helped the regime, Duelfer reported to Congress yesterday.

Those who received the certificate could buy oil at a lower price and sell it at regular price to make money. The nationality breakdown includes 30 Russians, 15 French, 10 Chinese, six Swiss, six Malaysians, six Syrians, four Jordanians, for Egyptians and 20 "others", he said in his report.

He also said that companies in several countries, including Italy, India, Turkey and Romania, may have sold Saddam dual purpose equipment that could be converted for the production of unconventional weapons.

The most important aspect of the report that runs into over 1,000 pages was that the 1991 Gulf War and subsequent UN inspections destroyed Iraq's illicit weapons capability and, for the most part, Saddam did not try to rebuild it.

Duelfer reported that Hussein's ability to produce nuclear weapons "progressively decayed" since 1991 and inspectors found no evidence of "concerted efforts to restart programme."

Hussein, however, talked about conducting germ warfare against Saudi Arabia and Israel with no indication of capability. "The report is the latest development to undermine the Bush Administration's central rationale for the war in Iraq," the Washington Post said.

Duelfer's report is only the latest one to question the administration's claims to justify the Iraq war.

"One by one," said the Post, "official reports by government investigators, statements by former administration officials and internal CIA analyses have combined to undermine many of the central rationales of the Administration's case for war with Iraq -- and its handling of the post-invasion occupation."

"The release yesterday of Duelfer's definitive account on Iraq's weapons -- and its contention that Iraq no longer had weapons of mass destruction before the US-led invasion," said the Post, "is only the latest in a series of damaging blows to the White House's strategy of portraying the war in Iraq as being on the cusp of success."

The report comes just a few weeks after Democratic presidential challenger John F Kerry gave new life to his campaign by emphasising what he asserts is the gap between the Bush rhetoric and the realities in Iraq, the Post noted.

This week Bush's former administrator in Iraq, L Paul Bremer, broke with the administration to say that officials had sent too few troops to Iraq and had allowed a culture of lawlessness to develop.

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