U.S. 'confident' over Iraq WMDs
WASHINGTON -- U.S. intelligence officials say they are now "confident" that trucks laden with high-tech equipment found in Iraq were designed as mobile biological weapons production facilities.
One of the main premises for the invasion of Iraq was to rid the country of weapons of mass destruction, but despite the discovery of these apparent mobile weapons labs so far U.S. forces have found no banned weapons.
The report, produced jointly by the Pentagon and the CIA, concludes that the trucks must have been intended for weapons production because all other logical alternatives have been ruled out.
"BW (biological weapons) agent production is the only consistent, logical purpose for these vehicles" the report released Wednesday says.
The report adds: "coalition experts on fermentation systems and systems engineering examined the trailer found in late April and have been unable to identify any legitimate industrial use -- such as water purification, mobile medical laboratory, vaccine or pharmaceutical production -- that would justify the effort and expense of a mobile production capability."
The equipment in the trailers was either new and unused, or had been thoroughly cleaned to remove any traces of the materials used, according to the report.
But the find has not convinced critics who say that the existence of the trucks does nothing to prove what the Bush administration predicted before the war -- that at least 100 metric tons of weaponized chemical and biological agents would be found.
Former U.N. weapons inspector Jonathan Tucker says the trucks could well be biological weapons facilities, but he says the Pentagon-CIA report does not present an open and shut case.
"This was clearly a very inefficient way to produce anthrax," he told CNN.
"The question is why did they invest such resources in a mobile facility if they could have simply hidden a fixed production facility in a very difficult to find location?"
Other experts also argue that it is simply a mistake for the Bush administration to leave the searching to the U.S. military and the CIA – since, like it or not, the US is not trusted on the matter by many around the world.
The CIA-Pentagon report admits the trucks were not an efficient way to produce biological weapons, but officials argue the point for the Iraqis was to produce some and not to be caught doing it.
Despite the lack of actual weapons evidence the Bush administration says it remains convinced Iraq was a threat and had weapons of mass destruction.
"It's very important to recognize that programs that we had said existed, do exist," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Wednesday.
His comments echoed those of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld who said Iraq may have destroyed its weapons of mass destruction before the war.
Speaking in New York Tuesday, Rumsfeld said it was possible the reason Iraqi chemical or biological weapons had not yet been found was that Saddam Hussein's government "decided that they would destroy them prior to a conflict."
-- CNN National Security Correspondent David Ensor contributed to this report