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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 January 2005, 21:53 GMT
Fallout from WMD search failure

By Nick Childs
BBC Pentagon correspondent

Charles Duelfer
Duelfer confirmed in October there were no WMD stockpiles in Iraq
The White House has now officially acknowledged what the Washington Post first reported and what many probably assumed was the case anyway - the US search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq is over, at least in any meaningful sense.

The search ended quietly just before Christmas when the chief inspector, Charles Duelfer, returned to the United States with no plans to head back to Iraq.

The weapons hunters - officially the Iraq Survey Group - have stopped physical searches.

Some are still sifting through a mountain of documents, and they'll pursue any leads. But nobody is really expecting the hunt to be revived.

Political fallout continues

There has been plenty of political fallout already from the non-appearance of weapons, for both Washington and London.

In essence, both had accepted that weapons weren't going to be found, and that the pre-war intelligence was wrong.

Set up in May 2003
First leader, David Kay, quit in Jan 2004 stating WMD would not be found in Iraq
New head, Charles Duelfer, appointed by CIA
1,200 experts from the US, Britain and Australia
HQ in Washington, offices in Baghdad and Qatar
But there are likely to be more ripples now from the fact that the hunt is now over, and particularly the way that fact emerged in a press report.

One senior long-time Democratic critic of the administration, Nancy Pelosi, has already said the president needs to explain to the American people why he was so wrong.

And the former United Nations chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, much criticised in the US by supporters of the war, has said the Bush administration needs to report back to the UN on this.

Focus shifts to insurgency

Mr Duelfer reported last October that he could find no evidence of weapons stockpiles or active programmes - although he said he believed Iraq's former leader, Saddam Hussein, still had the intention of reviving those programmes.

That was officially an interim report, although Mr Duelfer himself said he didn't think much would change, and many believed then that book was essentially closed.

Now, Mr Duelfer will make a few adjustments, which will be published in a few weeks.

They won't change his basic conclusions, but will now essentially be his final words on an issue which started out as the main reason for going to war with Iraq, but which turned into a huge embarrassment for the US and British governments.

The Iraq Survey Group now actually has more members than it's ever had - some 1,700 personnel.

But it's now focusing on trying to help with intelligence-gathering to counter the Iraqi insurgency - a much more immediate problem for the US military.

US gives up search for Iraq WMD
12 Jan 05 |  Americas

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