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Report fuels Iraq WMD debate

Charles Duelfer, head of the Iraq Survey Group, testifies Wednesday at a Senate Armed Services committee hearing.
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According to a report by the CIA's Charles Duelfer, Saddam Hussein did not have WMD when the war began.

Duelfer appears before a Senate committee to testify on Iraq's weapons capabilities.
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A long-awaited report which concluded Saddam Hussein did not possess stockpiles of illicit weapons at the time of the U.S. invasion has intensified the debate about the decision to go to war.

The CIA report, authored by Charles Duelfer, who advises the director of central intelligence on Iraqi weapons, said Iraq's WMD program had essentially destroyed in 1991 and Saddam ended Iraq's nuclear program after the 1991 Gulf War.

The report did say, however, that Iraq worked hard to cheat on United Nations-imposed sanctions and retain the capability to resume production of weapons of mass destruction at some time in the future.

In the U.S., Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, seized on the report as political ammunition against the Bush administration.

"Despite the efforts to focus on Saddam's desires and intentions, the bottom line is Iraq did not have either weapon stockpiles or active production capabilities at the time of the war," Rockefeller said in a press release.

"The report does further document Saddam's attempts to deceive the world and get out from under the sanctions, but the fact remains, the sanctions combined with inspections were working and Saddam was restrained."

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the report demonstrated the U.N. sanctions were not working and Saddam was "doing his best" to get around them.

He said the report made clear that there was "every intention" on Saddam's part to develop WMD and he "never had any intention of complying with U.N. resolutions."

But Britain's opposition Conservative Party said the report again proved Blair had lied about Saddam's weapons.

Tory leader Michael Howard said the premier "did not tell the truth about the intelligence he received."

The Liberal Democrats said the report was further proof that the government had been wrong to take Britain to war. The party's foreign affairs spokesman, Sir Menzies Campbell, said: "Brick by brick, the government's case for going to war is being demolished."

Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh backed Blair's remarks, pointing to evidence that Saddam was diverting money from the U.N. food-for-oil humanitarian program to buy new weapons.

"We know Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. We know Saddam Hussein used weapons of mass destruction. Those who see evidence should go to Halabja and to the mass graves.

"Saddam Hussein was evil. Saddam Hussein was himself a weapon of mass destruction."

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda said Japan -- a staunch U.S. ally -- stood by its decision to back the war because Iraq still posed a threat because it had previously been developing such weapons and it was not clear whether it had abandoned those programs.

"The Japanese government concludes that the nonexistent of facilities would not question the responsibility of our government, and we believe other governments reached the same conclusion," Hosoda told reporters.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard also refused to apologize for Australia's role in the Iraq war.

In a nationally televised speech Thursday ahead of Saturday's national elections, Howard did not mention the war, to which he sent 2,000 Australian troops.

But he remained defiant as journalists later questioned him about the report.

"I stand by the decision we took in relation to Iraq," Howard said. "I have no regrets at all about the fact that Saddam Hussein is no longer leading Iraq."

David Kay, former Bush-appointed head of the Iraq Survey Group, talked to CNN Thursday about the report issued by his successor.

He said "the most meaningful conclusion of" the report "is the failure of our intelligence services and the intelligence services of other western countries" to determine that Iraq had no stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction nor means to build them.

"We need to take that lesson to heart so a next president does not have to go through the same trauma that this one has when you turn out the reasons for going to war to be so different than the actual facts," he said on CNN's American Morning.

Speaking on the campaign trail in Pennsylvania, Bush maintained Wednesday that the war was the right thing to do and that Iraq stood out as a place where terrorists might get weapons of mass destruction.

"There was a risk, a real risk, that Saddam Hussein would pass weapons or materials or information to terrorist networks, and in the world after September the 11th, that was a risk we could not afford to take," Bush said.

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