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Powell not sure would have pressed for war if knew no WMD in Iraq

Al Bawaba

US Secretary of State Powell said he does not know whether he would have recommended an invasion of Iraq if he had been told it had no stockpiles of banned weapons, even as he offered a broad defense of the Bush administration's decision to launch war against Saddam and his regime, the Washington Post reported.

In its Tuesday edition, the newspaper quoted Powell as saying that even without possessing chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, Iraqi former president Saddam Hussein intended to "acquire them" and tried to maintain the capability of producing them in case international sanctions were lifted.

However, he conceded that the US administration's conviction that Saddam already had such weapons had made the case for war more "urgent".

Asked if he would have recommended an invasion knowing Baghdad had no prohibited weapons, Powell replied, "I don't know, because it was the stockpile that presented the final little piece that made it more of a real and present danger and threat to the region and to the world."

He added the "absence of a stockpile changes the political calculus; it changes the answer you get."

Throughout the interview, Powell tried to balance the administration's rationale for going to war with the reality that no weapons of mass destruction have been uncovered in Iraq.

Powell said, history will ultimately judge that the war "was the right thing to do."

Powell added, "Saddam Hussein and his regime clearly had the intent - they never lost it - an intent that manifested itself many years ago when they actually used such horrible weapons against their enemies in Iran and against their own people."

That intent, Powell said, was also demonstrated by Hussein keeping in place the capability to produce weapons. He said Saddam continued to train and employ people who knew how to develop weapons, "and there's no question about that and there's nobody debating that part of the intelligence."

Moreover, Powell said, Iraq continued to have the "technical infrastructure, labs and facilities, that will lend themselves to the production of weapons of mass destruction." Such facilities "could produce such weapons at a moment in time, now or some future moment in time," Powell said. "I think there's evidence that suggests that he was keeping a warm base, that there was an intent on his part to have that capability."

Powell asserted that Hussein was intent on creating delivery systems, such as longer-range missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles, the Post said.

"If you look at my presentation from last year, I talk about intent," Powell said. "I talk about the capability I think is there, the stockpiles, but a large part of the presentation is also what happened" and the unanswered questions about Iraq's weapons holdings. "He got a chance to answer the questions and he didn't answer the questions."
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