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Blix attacks Iraq weapons 'spin'

Thursday, September 18, 2003 Posted: 1:15 PM EDT (1715 GMT)

LONDON, England (CNN) -- The U.N.'s former chief weapons inspector has attacked the "spin and hype" he says the United States and Britain used when warning about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.

Hans Blix's comments on Thursday came hours after U.S. President George W. Bush said there was no evidence that Iraq's ousted president was involved in the September 11, 2001 attacks -- disputing an idea held by many Americans.

"There's no question that Saddam Hussein had al Qaeda ties," Bush said. But he added: "We have no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with ... September 11." 

In the run-up to the Iraq war, Washington argued that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) posed an imminent threat and that Saddam's government had close links to al Qaeda -- the terrorist network run by Osama bin Laden.

However Blix told British radio Thursday that Washington and London "over-interpreted" intelligence about Saddam's weapons.

Comparing the two countries to medieval witch-hunters, Blix said the British and U.S. governments convinced themselves Iraq posed a threat based on evidence that was later discredited -- including forged documents about alleged attempts to buy uranium for nuclear weapons.

"In the Middle Ages when people were convinced there were witches they certainly found them. This is a bit risky," Blix said.

A pre-war British dossier on Iraqi weapons "led the reader to the conclusions that are a little further reaching" than was the case, Blix said.

"What in a way stands accused is the culture of spin, the culture of hyping," he said.

"We know advertisers will advertise a refrigerator in terms that we don't quite believe in, but we expect governments to be more serious and have more credibility."

He added that the coalition should have allowed U.N. weapons inspectors to continue working. They were pulled out on March 18 after three months -- two days before the U.S.-led invasion.

In the five months since Saddam's overthrow, the U.S.-led Iraq Survey Group -- composed of 1,400 scientists, military and intelligence experts -- has failed to uncover any banned weapons.

Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have said the search will take time and that evidence will eventually be uncovered.

"The patience that they require for themselves now was not anything that they wanted to give to us," said Blix.

Blix's comments come as the Hutton inquiry continues in London into the death of UK government scientist David Kelly, who apparently killed himself after he was named as a possible source for a BBC story that the government exaggerated the threat posed by Iraq. 

Blair's office has consistently denied misleading the public.

Bush and Blair have come under mounting pressure to prove that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and both leaders have seen their popularity ratings fall in opinion polls.

In an interview on Australian radio on Wednesday, Blix said he believed that Iraq had destroyed most of its weapons of mass destruction 10 years ago but maintained the appearance it had them to deter a military attack. 

Current U.N. chief weapons inspector Demetrius Perricos has echoed his predecessor's comments, telling Reuters it was becoming "more and more difficult to believe stocks (of WMD) were there" in Iraq.


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