The US is to expand its hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, despite its inability to find any such weapons so far.
The US chief weapons inspector, Charles Duelfer, said on Tuesday that his team would be looking instead at whether the ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein intended to develop WMDs.
"Ultimately what we want is a comprehensive picture, not just simply answering questions – were there weapons, were there not weapons?" Duelfer told reporters after briefing the Senate armed services committee behind closed doors.
"The hunt will go on until we are able to draw a firm and confident picture of what the programmes were and where the regime was headed with respect to them. But we are looking at it from soup to nuts – from the weapons end to the planning end and to the intentions end," he said.
The new quest to determine whether Saddam intended to develop weapons of mass destruction reflects the Bush administration's desperation for a rationale to justify the war.
Initially, the administration said the war was necessary to find and destroy the weapons of mass destruction that Iraq possessed.
With none uncovered, the White House now says the war, was justified because Saddam planned to build such weaponry.
"We are looking for weapons, we are looking for production equipment, we are looking for the decisions by the regime to sustain a capability … but we have not found existing stocks of weapons as some had expected," Duelfer said.
Duelfer, appointed by the CIA in January, guides the on-the-ground hunt by the Defence Department's Iraq survey group of about 1200 to 1400 personnel.
Duelfer succeeded David Kay, who resigned after saying he did not believe Iraq had large stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons.