US claims it has evidence of Iraqi weapons programmes

06 December 2002

As Iraq prepared to hand over a declaration of its weapons technologies on 7 December, the US continued to pour scorn on Saddam Hussein's denials. 'The United States knows that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction,' said Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. US officials said that such intelligence will be passed on to UN weapons inspectors so that they know where to direct their efforts.

Iraq's declaration may take some days to analyse, since it is expected to be long and complex, running to thousands of pages. The US says that the aim is to muddy the waters by declaring every product that could be deemed to have a possible military purpose, while not in fact admitting to the banned weapons programmes the US believes it is conducting. Under the terms of UN Resolution 1441 any inaccurate declaration would constitute a 'material breach'. UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw this week warned that Iraq risked attack if it did not disclose all banned technologies. However US officials have acknowledged that the document in itself is unlikely to trigger a war.

Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz on 4 December told a US television network that Iraq had no chemical, biological or nuclear weaponry, and said that 'the whole issue of weapons of mass destruction is a hoax,' to give the US a pretext to attack the country. After similarly inflammatory statements from Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan, who accused the weapons inspectors of being US and Israeli spies, Saddam Hussein cast himself as the voice of moderation on 5 December, using his first public statement since inspections began to say that he would give the UN team the chance to prove Iraq's innocence.

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