The daily newspaper reported on Wednesday that officials who served with the group charged with hunting banned weapons said insecurity in Iraq and a lack of new information had led them to fold up the effort shortly before Christmas.

Charles Duelfer, the CIA special adviser who had led the hunt, has returned home and analysts serving in his Iraq Survey Group (ISG) have returned to CIA headquarters in Virginia, the report said.
   
The paper said the findings of an interim report that Duelfer submitted to the US Congress in September will stand as the ISG's final conclusions, according to a senior intelligence
official. 
   
Nothing to report

The report found that Iraq had no stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons and its nuclear programme had decayed before the US-led invasion in 2003, in findings contrary to the pre-war assertions of the Bush administration.
   
The newspaper reported that the White House had been reluctant to call off the hunt, holding out the possibility that weapons had been shipped out of Iraq before the war or were well hidden inside the country.
   
US President George Bush, who subsequently said he was "right to take action" in Iraq, had cited a growing threat from Iraq's weapons of mass destruction as one of the main reasons for overthrowing ousted Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.