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Blix says Sunday Times 'totally wrong' on Iraq nuke test

Here's an interesting story from Reuters. Many of you will remember the BBC2
'Correspondent' program earlier this year. Somehow I doubt this update will
get the same (or indeed, any) exposure ...

Best wishes,

voices uk

Did Iraq conduct a clandestine nuclear test?

UNITED NATIONS, June 11 (Reuters) - The chief U.N. arms inspector and
experts at a London think tank have concluded there was no evidence
Iraq had carried out a successful nuclear test in 1989, as alleged in
news reports earlier this year.

Hans Blix, the executive chairman of the U.N. Monitoring,
Verification and Inspection Commission, said he reported to the U.N.
Security Council last week "the information is totally wrong" that
Iraq conducted a nuclear test beneath Lake Rezazza, southwest of
Baghdad on Sept. 19, 1989, before the Gulf War.

He told reporters his department and the International Atomic Energy
Agency (IAEA) had evidence in its files, from overhead flights and
previous ground inspections "there had been no nuclear tests" nor a
tunnel under the lake.

Purported evidence of a test, from two defecting former scientists in
Iraq and an interpretation of satellite photographs of the test area,
was reported in London's Sunday Times newspaper in February and
received fairly wide coverage.

Terry Wallace, a professor of Geosciences at the University of
Arizona, says that while it is far easier to prove something did
happen than to prove it did not there was no reason to believe the
story is "anything but a hoax."

An examination of global earthquake catalogues, produced by the
International Seismic Center and U.S. Geological Survey, revealed no
significant seismic activity in Iraq the day the test was alleged to
have taken place, Wallace said.

Such an explosion he said, in an article for the London-based think
tank, the Verification, Training and Information Center, would have
been easily detectable by international or by regional monitoring in
Iran, Israel or Jordan, which keep records of earthquakes.

None of them reported any seismic events of the magnitude necessary
for a nuclear test in the region around Lake Rezazza, Wallace said.
U.N. arms inspectors have not been permitted to track down Baghdad's
weapons of mass destruction since mid-December 1998, when they were
withdrawn shortly before the United States and Britain launched a
four-day bombing campaign prompted by Iraq's failure to cooperate
with the arms teams.

Blix's agency has now signed a contract with a private, satellite
firm and is restarting overhead flights this month.

Earlier this year, Western intelligence agencies alleged that Iraq
had reconstituted parts of its banned arms programs. The German
Federal Intelligence Agency (BND) in February told selected reporters
Iraq could produce a nuclear device in three years and fire a missile
as far as Europe by 2005.

U.S. and British officials alleged in January that Iraq had rebuilt
three factories capable of producing chemical and biological weapons.
The IAEA, meanwhile, carried out its annual inspection of the Iraq's
Tuwaitha nuclear power center in January and reported that low-grade
nuclear material held there had not been moved since its last visit.


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