Prime Minister Tony Blair said Tuesday that Saddam Hussein’s illicit weapons of mass destruction may never be found in Iraq, but insisted the dictator had posed a threat to the world.
Saddam’s alleged chemical and biological weapons programs served as London and Washington’s chief stated reasons for going to war. However, the Iraq Survey Group’s hunt for evidence has proved largely fruitless.
“I have to accept that we have not found them, that we may not find them,” Blair told a committee of lawmakers Tuesday. “We do not know what has happened to them. They could have been removed, they could have been hidden, they could have been destroyed.”
Blair rejected any suggestion that the stockpiles never existed and that Saddam had not been a danger to the world.
“To go to the opposite extreme and say therefore no threat existed from Saddam Hussein would be a mistake,” he told the House of Commons Liaison Committee.
He said the survey group had already shown that Saddam had the “strategic capability, the intent and was in multiple breaches of the United Nations resolutions.”
“I genuinely believe that those stockpiles of weapons were there,” Blair added.
In September 2002, Blair’s government published a dossier of intelligence about Iraq. At the time, Blair told the Commons that Saddam’s “weapons of mass destruction program is active, detailed and growing.” Blair said some of Iraq’s chemical and biological weapons “could be activated within 45 minutes.”
Even after no weapons were found during the war, Blair insisted they would be found. A year ago, he told one critic the search was continuing, and results would be published. “I think that when we do so, the honorable gentleman and others will be eating some of their words,” he said in Commons.
Serious questions have been asked about the quality of Britain’s prewar intelligence on Iraqi weapons. An inquiry, instigated by the government, will publish its report on July 14.