The man leading the US hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq has
quit amid a lack of evidence that Saddam Hussein had illegal stockpiles
Mr Kay cast doubt on Iraq's weapons programmes
David Kay gave no reason for leaving but sources in
Washington speak of a mixture of personal reasons and his
disillusionment with the search.
He did say he believed Iraq had not had any large stockpiles of chemical or biological weapons during the 1990s.
"I don't think they existed," he told Reuters news agency in an interview.
The Iraq Survey Group (ISG) team leader was appointed by
the CIA last June to head the post-invasion search for chemical,
nuclear and biological weapons.
The BBC's Jon Leyne in Washington says Mr Kay's words
about non-existent stockpiles are powerful remarks from someone who
once strongly believed Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WDM)
represented a major threat.
Mr Kay is being succeeded by former United Nations
weapons inspector Charles Duelfer who said earlier this month that he
believed the chances of finding chemical or biological weapons in Iraq
was now "close to nil".
Announcing Mr Kay's departure, CIA director George Tenet
praised him for "extraordinary service under dangerous and difficult
"At a time when our WMD hunt efforts were just beginning, David provided a critical strategic framework," Mr Tenet said.
He described Mr Kay as a "model private citizen who willingly lent his unique expertise to his government in a time of need".
Mr Duelfer is known to be more of a sceptic on Iraq's weapons
In a statement released by the CIA, Mr Kay said he
retained confidence in the ISG's continuing efforts to resolve
questions about the ousted Iraqi regime's WMD efforts.
But in his telephone interview with Reuters, he cast
doubt on reports that Saddam Hussein - who used chemical weapons
against Kurds and in the war with Iran in the 1980s - had continued his
programmes in recent years.
"What everyone was talking about is stockpiles produced
after the end of the last Gulf War and I don't think there was a
large-scale production programme in the 90s," he said.
Mr Kay said he believed most of what was going to be found in the hunt had already been discovered.
In his State of the Union speech this week, President
George W Bush quoted the conclusion of Mr Kay's interim report, which
said only that WMD-related programme activities had been found in Iraq.
Charles Duelfer, 51, served as deputy executive chairman of the UN Special Commission on Iraq from 1993 to 2000.
He is currently leading scientists checking out suspicious finds by the US military.
Experts say he has significant connections, including relationships with Iraqis and members of the ISG.
WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Matt Frei
"Kay led a team of 1,400 inspectors"