23 January 2004

WMD sceptic will head search team

A former senior member of the United Nations weapons inspection team has been appointed by the US government to lead more than 1,000 scientists combing Iraq for evidence that Saddam Hussein produced illegal weapons.

The choice of Charles Duelfer, reported last night by ABC television, appears surprising. Earlier this month, he asserted that the claims about weapons of mass destruction used to justify the war in Iraq would never be substantiated. 'I think it's pretty clear right now that they're not going to find existing weapons in Iraq of either a biological or chemical nature,' he said.

Mr Duelfer, 51, was picked by George Tenet, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency. He will replace David Kay as head of the Iraq Survey Group, charged with finding evidence of such weapons. Mr Kay had already indicated that he intended giving up the position in February.

The Vice-President Dick Cheney said two days ago that he still believed some evidence would be found. 'It's going to take some additional considerable period of time in order to look in all of the cubby holes and ammo dumps in Iraq, where you might expect to find something like that,' he commented.

Well, it's a surprise, as are Cheney's continuing claims about WMDs, the Saddam/al-Qa'ida linkage, and a number of other things.

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