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Saddam ordered chemical attack, inspector to claim

Saddam 'ordered chemical attack'

Julian Borger in Washington
Tuesday August 12, 2003
The Guardian

The former UN inspector hired by the Bush administration to find evidence that
Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction will claim in a report next
month that Iraqi forces were ordered to fire chemical shells at invading
coalition troops, according to US reports.

But David Kay, who heads the 1,400-strong Iraq Survey Group, has admitted he
has found no trace of the weapons themselves, and cannot explain why they were
never used.

One possibility is that the orders were part of an elaborate bluff, in the hope
that they would be intercepted by the US and deter an attack.

According to US officials, all the Iraqi scientists now in custody have
insisted that Saddam's arsenal of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons was
destroyed years before the Iraqi invasion.

The Boston Globe reported that Mr Kay, who was hired by the CIA in June to
direct the search, had made the claim in a classified briefing to two Senate
committees.

The newspaper quoted officials who had seen a summary of his report as saying
that Republican Guard commanders had been ordered to launch chemical-filled
shells at troops.

"They have found evidence that an order was given," a senior intelligence
official said, adding there was no explanation of why the weapons were not
used.

After his congressional briefing, Mr Kay told journalists he was making "solid
progress", but said he would not make it public until he completed his work and
found "conclusive proof". He is under pressure from the White House to go
public as soon as possible and administration officials say he is expected to
publish a report within weeks.

Prewar claims by the Blair government that Iraqi forces were ready to fire
chemical weapons at 45 minutes' notice, and US reports in March that chemical
artillery shells had been sent to Republican Guard units ringing Baghdad, were
ridiculed when no such ordnance was fired or found.

It is not clear what evidence Mr Kay will present to support his claims.

At the time he was hired by the CIA to direct the hunt for weapons, Mr Kay was
working for a hi-tech engineering firm and appearing regularly on television to
argue that the Iraqi dictator had a significant arsenal.

Some of his former UN colleagues have said he has a powerful personal incentive
to show he was not entirely wrong.

After the war he suggested that the weapons had been dumped in the Tigris and
Euphrates rivers but no evidence of this was found to back up the allegation.

Mr Kay believes that the Baghdad regime destroyed or hid its weapons, telling
reporters: "The active deception programme is truly amazing once you get inside
it."

The Bush administration is hoping that the Kay report will bolster its defences
against an expected onslaught of Democratic party criticism over the Iraq war
once as the 2004 presidential election campaign gathers pace next month.

The White House weathered two weeks of intense media scrutiny last month after
it admitted including an unsubstantiated claim about the Iraqi nuclear
programme in the president's state of the union address in January.

The intensity of the coverage has let up considerably while Congress is on
holiday this month.

But the Washington Post on Sunday published a three-page investigation on how
the administration exaggerated available intelligence on the Iraqi nuclear
programme.

"On occasion, administration advocates withheld evidence that did not conform
to their views," the investigation found.

"The White House seldom corrected misstatements or acknowledged loss of
confidence in information upon which it had previously relied."

The report focused on administration claims that Iraq was trying to import
aluminium tubes to build a gas centrifuge for uranium enrichment, despite
persuasive evidence that the specification of the tubes made it much more
likely they were intended for the construction of rockets, as the Baghdad
regime had claimed.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,1016838,00.html