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PM under more WMD pressure.

Byline: By MARTHA LINDEN Western Mail

Tony blair was under more pressure last night over claims about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq after new doubts were raised by a former senior ally of US President George Bush.

Ex-US Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, who was sacked by President Bush in December 2002, said he never saw any evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

In an interview with the latest Time magazine, Mr O'Neill said he saw only 'allegations and assertions' about Iraq's weapons programmes during his tenure, which included a seat on the National Security Council.

'In the 23 months I was there, I never saw anything that I would characterise as evidence of weapons of mass destruction,' Mr O'Neill said.

'There were allegations and assertions by people. But I've been around a hell of a long time, and I know the difference between evidence and assertions and illusions or allusions and conclusions that one could draw from a set of assumptions.

'To me there is a difference between real evidence and everything else. And I never saw anything in the intelligence that I would characterise as real evidence,' he said.

A US administration official told Time that Mr O'Neill was not in a position to have seen the intelligence on weapons of mass destruction because access to it was limited.

His remarks come after Mr Blair was facing renewed questioning over his claims about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction after admitting they might never be found.

The Prime Minister on Sunday insisted he was right to act on intelligence that Saddam Hussein had a chemical and biological arsenal.

But Mr Blair said 'it may well not be surprising' if it was never be uncovered.

The PM's words were seized on as an admission of defeat by former Labour ministers who opposed the war.

Conservatives said it called into question statements about intelligence he had given in the Commons.

Weapons had not been found at sites where coalition military chiefs had expected them, Mr Blair said.

Not finding them did not mean they were not there, he insisted.

Mr Blair's official spokesman said last night, 'The position from the UK is well known. And if you look at what happened in respect of the diplomacy, all countries were trying to resolve this through diplomatic channels.'
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jan 13, 2004
Words:387
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