link WASHINGTON - Undercutting the Bush's administration's rationale for invading Iraq, the final report of the chief U.S. arms inspector concludes that Saddam Hussein did not vigorously pursue a program to develop weapons of mass destruction after international inspectors left Baghdad in 1998, according to lawmakers and others briefed on the report. In drafts, weapons hunter Charles Duelfer concluded that Saddam's Iraq had no stockpiles of the banned weapons but said he found signs of idle programs that Saddam could have revived if international attention had waned. "It appears that he did not vigorously pursue those programs after the inspectors left," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity in advance of the report's release. Duelfer was providing his findings Wednesday to the Senate Armed Services Committee. His team compiled a 1,500-page report after his predecessor, David Kay, who quit last December, also found no evidence of weapons stockpiles. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., briefed on the report earlier Wednesday, said Duelfer found Iraq's capability to produce and develop weapons of mass destruction had degraded since 1998. The report was "inconclusive" about what ultimately happened to Saddam's supposed weapons stockpiles from earlier in the 1990s, which might have been destroyed or transferred to Syria, said Roberts, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Pointing to apparent prewar confusion inside the country itself, the report suggests that Saddam's senior advisers, and perhaps Saddam himself, actually believed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction even when it did not, Roberts said. A Democratic senator briefed on the report, Dick Durbin of Illinois, said the Bush administration, in justifying war, "created a worse-case scenario on virtually no evidence." "There were no weapons of mass destruction," Durbin said. "At most, there was an intention or desire to create them." The White House continued to maintain that the findings support the view that Saddam was a threat. "We knew the dictator had a history of using weapons of mass destruction, a long record of aggression and hatred for America," President Bush said in a speech Wednesday in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. "There was a risk, a real risk, that Saddam Hussein would pass weapons or materials or information to terrorist networks. In the world after Sept. 11, that was a risk we could not afford to take." Saddam was importing banned materials, working on unmanned aerial vehicles in violation of U.N. agreements and maintaining industrial capability that could be converted to produce weapons, officials have said. Duelfer also describes Saddam's Iraq as having had limited research efforts into chemical and biological weapons. Duelfer's report will come on a week that the White House has been put on the defensive in a number of Iraq issues. Remarks this week by L. Paul Bremer, former U.S. administrator in occupied Iraq, suggested he argued for more troops in the immediate aftermath of the invasion, when looting was rampant. A spokesman for Bush's re-election campaign said Bremer indeed differed with military commanders. Bush's election rival, Democrat John Kerry, pounced on Bremer's statements that the United States "paid a big price" for having insufficient troop levels. On weapons, however, the Massachusetts senator has said he still would have voted to authorize the invasion even if he had known none would be found. White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the Duelfer report "will continue to show that he was a gathering threat that needed to be taken seriously, that it was a matter of time before he was going to begin pursuing those weapons of mass destruction." Compare that to the words of Vice President Dick Cheney, in a speech on Aug. 26, 2002, 6 1/2 months before the invasion: "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction," Cheney said then. "There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies and against us." On Wednesday, the White House also continued to assert that there were clear ties between Saddam before the invasion and the al-Qaida linked terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. But a CIA (news - web sites) report recently given to the White House found no conclusive evidence that Saddam harbored al-Zarqawi before the war, two U.S. government officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity They stressed, though, that the report did not make a final conclusion and the question of the al-Zaraqwi-Saddam ties is still being pursued. One of the officials said it is clear that al-Zarqawi had been planning terrorist attacks while operating out of Baghdad. The CIA report was first revealed by Knight-Ridder. During Tuesday night's debate, Cheney said "there is still debate over this question." But he added: "At one point, some of Zarqawi's people were arrested. Saddam personally intervened to have them released." In a speech on Oct. 7, 2002, Bush laid out what he described then as Iraq's threat: _"It possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons." _"We've also discovered through intelligence that Iraq has a growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons across broad areas." _"Iraq possesses ballistic missiles with a likely range of hundreds of miles far enough to strike Saudi Arabia, Israel, Turkey and other nations in a region where more than 135,000 American civilians and service members live and work. "