Image: David Kay
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David Kay
NBC News and news services
updated 12/18/2003 3:09:24 PM ET 2003-12-18T20:09:24

The chief of the hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq has said he wants to step down but CIA officials have asked him to reconsider, NBC News has learned.

David Kay, a former U.N. weapons inspector brought in by the CIA to run the search, has been meeting with agency officials in Washington to discuss his future.

During a meeting Monday, Kay told CIA officials that he wants to leave the assignment, but they asked him to reconsider, even if only to return for a brief period to file one more interim report, NBC's Andrea Mitchell reported. Kay is taking a few days off and will meet again with CIA Director George Tenet and others next Monday.

Analysts taken from team
Kay is said to want out because he feels he no longer has adequate resources to do the job. Under pressure from the military, the administration's took a quarter of Kay's intelligence analysts and security forces and redeployed them to the counterinsurgency effort.

Kay has been on the job for seven months. He has so far found no stockpiles of biological or chemical weapons and no ongoing nuclear program. His last interim report found some evidence on missiles, including a previously unknown attempt by Iraq to buy missiles from North Korea for which Saddam Hussein spent 10 million dollars without getting the missiles.

Kay's team has concluded that Saddam did not have stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons ... but CIA officials in Washington still believe something may be found.

Next report in February
Allegations of an active Iraqi effort to produce chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and to foster ties with terrorist networks were key to the administration’s case for war.

The lack of substantive discoveries has led critics to suggest the Bush administration either mishandled or exaggerated its knowledge of Iraq’s alleged programs.

Kay’s operation, known as the Iraqi Survey Group, is based at a former presidential compound near the Baghdad airport and is staffed by more than 1,000 intelligence analysts, interrogators and translators.

Another interim report is due in February. In October, Kay predicted the weapons hunt would be able to reach definitive conclusions within six to nine months — sometime in spring 2004.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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