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U.S. giving up on search for nuclear arms in Iraq

The hunt for biological, chemical and nuclear weapons in Iraq has come to an end almost two years after President Bush ordered U.S. troops to disarm Saddam Hussein. The top CIA weapons hunter is home, and analysts are back at Langley, Va.

In interviews, officials who served with the Iraq Survey Group said the violence in Iraq, coupled with a lack of new information, led them to fold up the effort shortly before Christmas.

Four months after Charles Duelfer, who led the weapons hunt in 2004, submitted an interim report to Congress that contradicted almost every prewar assertion about Iraq made by top Bush administration officials, a senior intelligence official said the findings will stand as the ISG's final conclusions and will be published this spring, the Washington Post reports.

President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and other top administration officials said before the U.S. invasion in March 2003 that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program, had chemical and biological weapons and maintained links to al-Qaida affiliates to whom it might give such weapons to use against the United States.

Bush has expressed disappointment that no weapons or weapons programs were found, but the White House has been reluctant to end the hunt, holding out the possibility that weapons were moved out of Iraq before the war or are well hidden.

Duelfer is back in Washington, finishing addenda to his September report before it is reprinted.

The CIA declined to allow officials involved in the weapons search to speak on the record for this story. The senior intelligence official offered an authoritative account of the status of the hunt on the condition of anonymity, the Washington Post reported. The agency confirmed Duelfer is finishing his work.

The ISG, established to search for weapons but now enmeshed in counterinsurgency work, remains under Pentagon command and is led by Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Joseph McMenamin.

Several hundred military translators and document experts will continue to sift through millions of pages of documents.

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