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Kay Clarifies Iraq WMD Conclusions in Magazine Report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former U.S. weapons inspector David Kay said on Monday that he had not concluded by July 2003 that Iraq did not possess any weapons of mass destruction as reported by Vanity Fair magazine.

 

Kay told Reuters he was working on four hypotheses in July and did not conclude until later last year that Iraq probably did not have such weapons.

President Bush cited the banned weapons as the main reason for taking the United States to war against Saddam Hussein's Iraq in March 2003.

In a lengthy report in its latest issue which goes on sale this week, Vanity Fair said that less than a month after arriving in Iraq as the CIA-appointed leader of the hunt for biological, chemical and nuclear weapons, Kay said he sent an e-mail to CIA Director George Tenet saying "it looks as though they did not produce weapons."

The magazine noted that the e-mail was sent in July, yet it would be months before the U.S. Congress and the public were told of Kay's conclusion.

Questioned about the report, Kay told Reuters in a telephone interview that in the e-mail to Tenet he was merely putting forward theories of why no weapons of mass destruction had been found.

At the time he said he believed the most probable explanation was that Iraq had dual-use facilities capable of being switched from producing commercial products to developing banned weapons quickly if needed.

"It wasn't a case of just suddenly realizing, it was a case of as early as July looking around for other explanations of the failure to find weapons," Kay said.

"It was beginning to more and more look like to me that the best theory that fit the facts was that they had not produced large amounts of weapons but had configured their program to surge and mobilize production as needed, on demand," he said.

"I did not tell him (Tenet) that I didn't believe there were weapons," Kay told Reuters.

Kay said he also considered other theories -- among them that the banned weapons had been moved to Syria or that they had been destroyed before the war or were so well-hidden that U.S. forces could not find them.

By the time he resigned in January this year Kay said he had come to believe Iraq did not possess any large stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons when the United States invaded.

"I believe they became incapable after 1998 of really producing a coherent program," he said. "By December I clearly had told everyone that, but it's not true in July."

Vanity Fair reported Kay said he was ready to quit in December but Tenet pleaded with him to stay on because it would look bad if he left early.

Kay told the magazine that Tenet said, "If you resign now it will appear like we don't know what we're doing and the wheels are coming off." Kay resigned on Jan. 23.

A CIA spokesman had no immediate comment.

According to Vanity Fair, after he sent the July e-mail, Key received a phone call in Baghdad from CIA deputy director John McLaughlin, who told him: "We have to be very careful how we handle this."

"I didn't view that as inappropriate," Kay told Reuters. "Any time you're throwing hypotheses out, you've got to be sure that you have the facts to support them and obviously I had facts that were fitting four hypotheses."

(Additional reporting by Arthur Spiegelman in Los Angeles)

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