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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Hunt Continues For Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction

Aired May 28, 2003 - 20:25   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Moving ahead now to a developing story: the hunt for so-called smoking gun, meant to prove that Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction.
Here's national security correspondent, David Ensor.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): While U.S. forces still haven't found any weapons of mass destruction, the new CIA-Pentagon report says officials are now confident the mysterious trucks filled with high-tech equipment found in Iraq are indeed mobile biological weapons production facilities, just as Secretary of State Powell predicted and presented the United Nations before the war.

RICHARD BOUCHER, STATE DEPT. SPOKESMAN: It's very important to recognize that programs that we had said existed do exist.

ENSOR: Though no trace of biological toxin was found in the trucks, U.S. intelligence officials say they have largely eliminated any other possible use for the fermenters and other equipment.

Not every one is convinced.

JONATHAN TUCKER, FMR. U.N. BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS INSPECTOR: They could very well be biological weapons production facilities, but I don't think the intelligence community has made an open-and-shut case.

ENSOR: The CIA-Pentagon reports admits the trucks were not an efficient way to produce biological weapons, but officials argue the point for the Iraqis was to produce some and not to be caught doing it.

TUCKER: This was clearly a very inefficient way to produce anthrax. And the question is why did they invest such resources in a mobile facility if they could have simply hidden a fixed production facility in a very difficult-to-find location?

ENSOR: Some outside experts also argue that it is simply a mistake for the administration to have the U.S. military and the CIA doing the searching since, like it or not, the U.S. is not trusted on the matter by many around the world.

AMY SMITHSON, CHEMICAL BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS EXPERT: I have strongly urged in the past and will continue to urge this administration to include in this evaluation, in the hunt, international inspectors.

ENSOR: The administration is urging patience, saying finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq is likely to take time. Officials declined comment to reporters on whether any of the high-profile Iraqi weapons officials are talking, people like Hudda Ammash, known as Mrs. Anthrax.

SMITHSON: The people that were genuinely involved in this program are still probably scared out of their wits, not just for their own safety but the safety of their families.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ENSOR: U.S. intelligence officials say the trucks contain ingeniously simple bioweapons production facilities cleaned up or possibly never used.

Critics say that does nothing to prove what the bush administration predicted before the war -- that at least 100 metric tons of weaponized chemical and biological agents would be found inside Iraq -- Anderson.

COOPER: David Ensor, thanks very much tonight. Appreciate it.

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