Report says no WMD as US hires agency to plug military

WASHINGTON DC - The US government has hired Washington DC-based start-up Iraqex to promote its military operation in Iraq as an official US report is released saying Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction when the allies invaded.

The report has led to renewed tensions about the reasons for going to war. It follows US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, saying earlier this week that he knew of no connection between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda despite earlier saying otherwise, and then claiming later that he had been "misunderstood".

The alleged link and the intent to use weapons of mass destruction was used by President Bush to back his case for invasion.

However, the news is not all bad for Bush and Tony Blair, because the report by the Iraq Survey Group also said that while there are no WMDs there was evidence that Saddam intended to resume his weapons programme.

Blair has already accepted said there were no WMD, but pointed to the fact that the report showed that UN sanctions had not been working. Australian Prime Minister John Howard said the report changed nothing and he was in no way "apologetic" for Australia's role in the war.

Iraqex will work with Multi-National Corps-Iraq, which will direct the year-long PR campaign, that aims to generate public support in Iraq for its operation.

Iraqex was set up by the Lincoln Alliance Corporation to pursue private sector opportunities in Iraq and won the business after a five-way pitch.

It will media train the Iraqi and non-Iraqi military, and run in addition to Bell Pottinger Communications's contract.

Bell Pottinger was appointed in March by MNC-I -- then known as the Coalition Provisional Authority -- to promote democracy on a three-month contract, which has since been extended.

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