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Last Updated: Friday, 29 October, 2004, 00:38 GMT 01:38 UK
Rumsfeld joins Iraq explosive row
By Nick Childs
BBC Pentagon correspondent

A US defence department picture of the al-Qaqaa explosives storage complex
Rumsfeld says trucks may have been removing explosives
The US defence secretary has entered the row over large amounts of explosives allegedly looted in Iraq.

Donald Rumsfeld says it is very likely that Saddam Hussein moved the 350 metric tons of high explosive before the war began.

The Pentagon says a photograph shows pre-war activity at the site.

US presidential candidate John Kerry has used the affair to claim that President Bush's handling of the war has been incompetent.

The issue becomes more tortuous and politically charged by the day.

People who use hair-triggered judgement... frequently make mistakes that are awkward and embarrassing
Donald Rumsfeld
Mr Rumsfeld weighed in during a US local radio interview, when he said it was very likely that Saddam moved munitions when he knew the war was coming.

The idea that the explosives were suddenly looted is, he said, at least debatable.

His remarks clearly sounded like a jab at Mr Kerry.

"First reports are almost always wrong, and people who use hair-triggered judgement to come to conclusions about things that are fast moving frequently make mistakes that are awkward and embarrassing," he said.

Conflicting evidence

The Pentagon has also released an aerial photograph of the al-Qaqaa site showing two trucks outside a bunker there in mid-March, two days before the Iraq war started.

It will not speculate on what they were doing, but it shows, officials said, that there was activity there after international inspectors left and before American troops arrived.

However, it is hardly definitive.

And in what could be a significant development, the US network ABC broadcast pictures which it says appear to show at least some of the explosives in bunkers at the site in mid-April while US troops were there.


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