SLUG: 2-304085 Pentagon / Intelligence (L)
TITLE=PENTAGON / INTELLIGENCE (L ONLY)
INTRO: The Pentagon now acknowledges its own intelligence agency reported last year having "no reliable information" that Iraq had chemical weapons -- one of the main reasons cited by the Bush administration for war with Baghdad. More from V-O-A Pentagon Correspondent Alex Belida.
TEXT: Bush administration officials, including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, remain confident that searches by U-S forces in Iraq will eventually unearth concrete evidence of Saddam Hussein's chemical weapons.
So far, no such weapons have been found -- and Pentagon officials now admit the Defense Intelligence Agency, in a classified report last September, said it had no conclusive information that Iraq had produced and stockpiled chemical weapons.
Still, a spokesman for the agency says the Pentagon did know for certain that Iraq had the capability to make such weapons. The official also says there was evidence to suggest it was doing so.
On the surface, the report suggests greater uncertainty about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction efforts than the statements being made before the war by Secretary Rumsfeld and other top officials.
But defense officials note the Pentagon intelligence report was only one of many sources of information on Iraq. They also draw a distinction between the way intelligence experts work and the work carried out by policymakers on the basis of intelligence reports.
The Bush administration has denied slanting intelligence findings to justify a war.
Defense Secretary Rumsfeld met with members of Congress Thursday to answer questions about the administration's pre-war claims about Iraq's weapons programs.
Some members of Congress have voiced interest in investigating the intelligence about those programs. Mr. Rumsfeld has said the Pentagon will cooperate with any inquiry. (Signed)
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