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Background: Weapons Report

December 18, 2002 at 12:00 AM EST
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GWEN IFILL: Two weeks ago, Iraqi officials submitted a 12,000- page weapons declaration they described as “full” and “complete.” But today, Britain, America’s chief ally in any potential war against Iraq, said officials in Baghdad are not telling the truth. Prime Minister Tony Blair spoke in Britain’s House of Commons.

TONY BLAIR: I think most people who have looked at this obviously very long document are pretty skeptical about the claims that it makes, but it’s important that we study it in detail and make a formal and considerate response.

GWEN IFILL: British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw used even stronger words in a statement issued today, saying the declaration had “obvious omissions.” “This will fool nobody,” he said. “If Saddam persists in this obvious falsehood, it will become clear that he has rejected the pathway to peace.” In Washington, U.S. officials awaiting reports from two international inspections agencies were also skeptical about the contents of the Iraqi documents. Secretary of State Colin Powell:

COLIN POWELL: Our analysis of the Iraqi declaration to this point, almost two weeks into the process this weekend, shows problems with the declaration– gaps, omissions– and all this is troublesome. In my conversations with other permanent members of the Security Council, I sense they also see deficiencies in the resolution… in the declaration.

GWEN IFILL: Another White House official described the declaration as “Saddam Hussein’s last chance.” The U.S. is expected to release its official response to the Iraqi declaration tomorrow. Meanwhile, U.N. weapons inspectors are in their fourth week on the job. They are expected to report their initial findings to the Security Council January 27.