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New inspector won't rule out finding Iraqi WMD

Duelfer: Captured regime leaders not cooperating

From David Ensor
CNN Washington Bureau

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Duelfer: Captured Iraqis "can hold their tongues."

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In prepared testimony, the CIA's new chief Iraq weapons inspector said he does not rule out finding weapons of mass destruction, adding "we regularly receive reports, some quite intriguing and credible, about concealed caches" of weapons.

Charles Duelfer said, however, that former Iraqi senior officials -- now prisoners of U.S. forces -- are not talking.

"Over the past 10 months, we have learned that [deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's] most senior and trusted officials can hold their tongues," Duelfer said.

"We know from high-level briefings that Saddam conveyed his most sensitive messages to particular individuals orally," he said. "Moreover, there were explicit instructions not to repeat such conversations."

Saddam's government collapsed April 9, 2003, when U.S. troops entered Baghdad. U.S. forces captured the fugitive leader in December near his ancestral homeland of Tikrit.

U.S.-led forces had invaded Iraq a month earlier after the Bush administration argued that Iraq was concealing stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, a nuclear weapons program and long-range missiles in violation of U.N. resolutions.

No stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction have been found despite an intensive search.

Critics have accused the administration of overstating the threat Iraq posed in order to go to war.

Duelfer is testifying Tuesday behind closed doors before the Senate Armed Services and Intelligence committees. His comments contrast with those of his predecessor, David Kay, who has said he does not expect that any weapons of mass destruction will be found in Iraq.

In prepared testimony, Duelfer said fear of retribution is still a significant stumbling block as the Iraq Survey Group he heads seeks information from Iraqi managers, scientists and engineers.

"Many perceive a grave risk in speaking with us. On one hand, there is a fear of prosecution or arrest. On the other, there is a fear [that] former regime supporters will exact retribution. This is, in part, why we do not yet fully understand the central issue of regime intentions," Duelfer said.

Duelfer, who is a special adviser to CIA Director George Tenet, said he is providing only a status report -- not a preliminary assessment of findings, which will come later.

Like Kay, Duelfer said that the regime was in "clear" violation of several U.N. resolutions banning WMD programs in Iraq, including the ban on certain biological research and the ban on deploying missiles or unmanned aerial vehicles with a range of more than 93 miles (150 kilometers).


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