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Search for banned weapons in Iraq has ended
Updated: 2005-01-12 14:24

The search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq ended last month, nearly two years after US President Bush sent troops to disarm Saddam Hussein, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday.

Officials who served with the group charged with hunting banned weapons said the violence in Iraq, coupled with a lack of new information, led them to fold up the effort shortly before Christmas, the newspaper reported.

Charles Duelfer, the CIA special adviser who led the hunt, has returned home, and analysts serving in his Iraq Survey Group (ISG) have returned to CIA headquarters in Virginia, the report said, citing unnamed intelligence officials.

The Post said the findings of an interim report that Duelfer submitted to Congress in September will stand as the ISG's final conclusions, according to a senior intelligence official.

The report concluded that Iraq had no stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons and its nuclear program had decayed before last year's U.S.-led invasion, in findings contrary to prewar assertions of the Bush administration.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, another U.S. intelligence official confirmed that Duelfer was back in Washington, but disputed that the weapons hunt was over.

"This isn't the kind of thing that stops, the search continues," the official told Reuters. "If new information comes in, obviously that would be looked at."

The Washington Post reported that the White House had been reluctant to call off the hunt, holding out the possibility that weapons had been shipped out of Iraq before the war or well hidden inside the country.

Bush, who subsequently said that he was "right to take action" in Iraq, had cited a growing threat from Saddam's weapons of mass destruction as one of the main reasons for overthrowing the Iraqi president.

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