Sunday, February 08, 2004

Iraq WMD threat was 'almost zero', troops officially told days before invasion: "Australian troops fighting in Iraq were told in an official briefing days before entering the country that Saddam Hussein did not have the capability to launch weapons of mass destruction against its neighbours. Roger Hill, Australia's most experienced weapons inspector, yesterday told The Age that Iraq had possessed the remnants of weapons of mass destruction but its ability to use them on the battlefield was 'almost zero'.

"'There is no question Iraq possessed materials, documents and possibly products,' Mr Hill said. 'But it did not have the ability to conduct attacks on its near or regional neighbours,' he said. 'I told our troops that. I also told people in the other coalition forces. But I was a lone voice.' ... Mr Hill, who is widely acknowledged as Australia's top expert on Saddam's weapons programs, said that during the eight years he spent travelling to Iraq as a senior UN weapons inspector he was asked only once to brief officials in Canberra about the threat posed by Saddam... Mr Hill, a career army officer, had served in the SAS and led the last UN inspection team that went to Iraq in November 1998. But none of Canberra's intelligence agencies asked for his assessment of the Iraq threat before the Government made its decision to send the troops."

"Mr Howard said this week that information that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction was one of the principal justifications for sending Australian troops to war. Only days before the invasion he said in a televised speech that the prospect Saddam could arm terrorists with weapons of mass destruction was a "direct, undeniable and lethal threat to Australia and its people"."

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