CIA Sees Iraq with Nukes by Decade's End; Report Lays out Regime's violations.(PAGE ONE)

Article excerpt

Byline: Bill Gertz, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Iraq has stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons in violation of U.N. resolutions and could deploy a nuclear bomb by the end of this decade, the CIA said in a report made public yesterday.

"If left unchecked, [Iraq] probably will have a nuclear weapon during this decade," the report said.

After U.N. weapons inspections ended in 1998, Iraq restarted its nuclear arms program, "maintained its chemical weapons effort, energized its missile program and invested more heavily in biological weapons," said the 25-page report titled "Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs."

The CIA report was released yesterday as Congress debates a resolution to authorize President Bush to use force against Iraq and as the United Nations develops a new resolution that could lead to military action against Iraq.

Regarding missile developments, the report said Baghdad has violated the 93-mile range limit on missiles that was imposed by the United Nations. Iraq also is building unmanned aerial vehicles that will "allow for a more lethal means to deliver biological and, less likely, chemical warfare agents," the report said.The report contains a photo of a Czech training jet that was converted into a pilotless drone. The drones could be outfitted to deliver chemical or biological weapons that "could threaten Iraq's neighbors, U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf, and the United States if brought close to, or into, the U.S. homeland," the report said.

Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke yesterday said Iraq has an active program of "denial and deception" aimed at hiding its weapons of mass destruction programs.

The report also revealed for the first time that Iraq is building specialized facilities that are part of a medium-range ballistic missile program.

It has deployed new al-Samoud and Ababil-100 short-range missiles that have ranges beyond the 93-mile limit imposed by the United Nations after the Gulf war.

The report said Saddam Hussein lacks the material to make nuclear weapons and probably does not have any nuclear arms but that "he remains intent on acquiring them."

If Baghdad succeeds in acquiring nuclear material that could be used as fuel for a weapon, "it could make a nuclear weapon within a year," the report said.

Iraq recently tried to buy special, high-strength metal tubes that are used to make fuel for nuclear weapons, the report said.

"All intelligence experts agree that Iraq is seeking nuclear weapons and that these tubes could be used in a centrifuge enrichment program," the report said. …