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Powell, Rice Steadfast on Iraq's Arms

June 09, 2003|From a Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Despite increasing queries about whether the threat from Iraq was exaggerated, Bush administration officials stood resolute Sunday in their claim that Saddam Hussein possessed advanced weapons of mass destruction ready for use -- a key U.S. justification for military intervention there.

Speaking on CNN's "Late Edition," Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said it was "really somewhat outrageous on the part of some critics to say that this was all bogus." He said the administration had no doubt about Iraq's arsenal.

National security advisor Condoleezza Rice asserted Sunday that congressional and media queries represent "a bit of revisionist history" and do not fairly reflect a long history of information from the United Nations and earlier U.S. administrations that provide "a very clear picture" about Baghdad's weapons programs.

Speaking on CBS' "Face the Nation," Rice said the U.S. investigation is still in its early stages and urged patience.

"We have thousands and thousands and thousands of documents that we've not yet gone through," she said. "We have many, many people [who were involved in weapons programs]. We've interviewed just a fraction of them. There are sites to visit. We will put together this whole picture."

Powell said the two mobile laboratories now being investigated were undoubtedly used for the production of biological weapons. Shortly before leaving for a three-day trip to Latin America, he told "Fox News Sunday" that if they had not been used for weapons, the Iraqis would have handed them over to U.N. inspectors.

The public language by senior U.S. officials recently, however, indicates that policymakers may be positioning the administration to blame the intelligence community if Iraq's alleged arsenal is not uncovered.

"I do not think the intelligence was wrong," Rice said. "I think that the intelligence agencies had a plethora of data, many multiple sources. Other intelligence agencies had it.... There was a lot of evidence."

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