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Powell unsure whether WMD will be found in Iraq

Secretary of state to meet Georgian president, then Putin

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell waves upon his arrival in Tbilisi, Georgia, on Saturday.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell waves upon his arrival in Tbilisi, Georgia, on Saturday.

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(CNN) -- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Saturday that it remains unclear whether weapons of mass destruction will be found in Iraq.

On Friday, the Bush administration's former top weapons investigator, David Kay, told the Reuters news agency he had concluded that former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had no stockpiles of weapons.

Responding to the remark, the secretary of state said it was not clear who was right.

Last year, Powell presented evidence to the United Nations that Saddam had such weapons. President Bush used their alleged existence as the primary rationale for the U.S.-led war on Iraq.

"I think the answer to the question is 'I don't know yet,'" Powell told reporters. "Last year, when I made my presentation, it was based on the best intelligence that we had at the time. It reflected the National Intelligence Estimate that the intelligence community had presented to all administration officials and had briefed to the Congress. And it was consistent with the views of other intelligence agencies of other governments, and it was consistent with the body of reporting over the years."

Powell said the United States had demanded of Iraqi officials a full accounting of what had happened to the nation's weapons, "and all they did was make statements without proving it, proving it to our satisfaction."

Powell said the Bush administration still plans to transfer sovereignty at the end of June, though he added, "There are a lot of things that have to happen. We've got to get a fundamental administrative law written, and a lot of work is being done on that."

Powell made his comments aboard a plane en route to Tbilisi, Georgia, where he is to attend Sunday's inauguration of President Mikhail Saakashvili.

U.S. troops in Georgia are training and equipping Georgian forces to root out Chechen separatists and other militants operating in the Pankisi Gorge.

Powell played down any suggestion of a rift between the United States and Russia over what he called "a very modest presence" in Georgia.

The troops' mission is likely to be completed in the next several months and has been largely effective, he said.

"The number of terrorists believed to still be wandering around in the gorge area is much reduced from what it was before we started."

Those terrorists, he said, had been attacking Russia through Chechnya.

"And so, it was a mission that we had explained to the Russians all along. It is no threat to anyone. It was a way of assisting the Georgians in dealing with a terrorist threat that was affecting Russia," Powell said.

He predicted the United States would "probably maintain some continuing liaison with Georgian military and paramilitary forces in the gorge, so that we have a sense of what their needs are and what their training requirements in the future might be," but said the basic mission should be ending soon.

Powell is to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday in Moscow, as well as with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.

Powell is scheduled to return to the United States on Tuesday.


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