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Iraqi scientist gives up 12-year-old nuclear parts

Date: 27-Jun-03
Country: USA

The former head of an old Iraqi centrifuge uranium enrichment program, Mahdi Shukur Ubaydi, turned over "a volume" of centrifuge documents and components he had hidden from U.N. weapons inspectors since 1991.

They were concealed in a barrel buried beneath a rose bush in a garden next to his house, said the official speaking on condition of anonymity.

"This is not a smoking gun," the intelligence official said, noting that it also does not mean that Iraq had a nuclear weapon. He said the items represented a "complete set of what would be needed to rebuild a centrifuge uranium enrichment program."

The U.S. official characterized the find as an illustration of how Iraqis have hidden their weapons of mass destruction.

"He (Ubaydi) also claimed this concealment was part of a secret high-level plan to reconstitute the nuclear weapons program once sanctions ended," the official said.

"What's significant is these documents and components were deliberately hidden at the direction of Iraq's senior leadership with the aim of preserving the regime's capacity to resume construction of a centrifuge that at some point could be used to enrich uranium for a nuclear device."

Ubaydi voluntarily came forward with the material and he and his family have been relocated, the official said.

U.S. President George W. Bush cited Iraq's alleged stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons and evidence of a nuclear arms development program and used that as the main justification for the U.S.-led war against Iraq.

American teams searching for banned Iraqi weapons have still not found any chemical or biological weapons since ousting Saddam Hussein from power in April.

Failure to find such weapons has prompted critics to suggest that Washington and Britain exaggerated intelligence reports about them.

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