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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 May, 2003, 08:00 GMT 09:00 UK
Iraq weapons proof 'will be found'
Air Marshal Brian Burridge
Air Marshal Brian Burridge is returning home

The commander of UK forces in the Iraq conflict has "no doubt" that evidence of weapons of mass destruction will be found.

Air Marshal Brian Burridge accepted it was "very important" that such proof was uncovered, in order to show the public the concerns that prompted the war were genuine.

The commander, who is on his way back to the UK after completing his mission, said the military campaign had been a "stunning success" and had removed "the most brutal, corrupt and reprehensible regime in history".

Speaking from Kuwait, he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The Iraqi people can look ahead in the medium to long term with, I think, some confidence."

'Treasure-house'

Air Marshal Burridge said he would not characterise Iraq's difficulties as "huge problems".

He said: "They are difficult, but the military campaign was, by military standards, a stunning success.

"We managed to preserve the treasure-house of Iraq, in the shape of their oil.

"It was mercifully short and therefore the infrastructure didn't suffer too badly."

Hiding evidence

Pressed on whether there was evidence of weapons of mass destruction that would satisfy critics, he said: "I know the stuff is there, but it will take forensic uncovering.

"There is no doubt that there is evidence of an extensive research programme which will be revealed through searches. People are telling us more things and it will be discovered."

There is no doubt that there is evidence of an extensive research programme which will be revealed through searches
Air Marshal Brian Burridge

He acknowledged that there was scepticism among the public about the existence of such material, but said that this was because they did not have access to the same level of information as him.

He pointed to Saddam Hussein's use of chemical weapons against the Kurds in 1985.

"That capability has continued to exist and been developed and we are sure of that and we are also sure that in order to defeat the great efforts of UN weapons inspectors, Saddam went to great lengths in order to hide it," he said.

"There were only a very few people who understood, in the closing days of the regime, where the WMD documentation and production facilities were."

Republican Guard

Air Marshal Burridge said the rapid collapse of Baghdad in the face of advancing coalition troops did not indicate that the Iraqi military was less fearsome than anticipated.

"The defence of Baghdad did not just crumble because it wasn't very good," he said.

"It crumbled because our speed, tempo and ability to manoeuvre completely unhinged the regime's ability to command and control."

The first Republican Guard commander to be captured by allied troops on their way into Baghdad admitted that he had believed them to be 160km (100 miles) from the capital, he said.

"They had lost the ability to position their forces to use them properly, but make no mistake, the Republican Guard equipment was in good condition, with plenty of ammunition.

"They had invested in them, and had the Republican Guard themselves had the will to fight as individuals, then it would have been a very different sort of war."




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