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[casi] Inspector Disputes US Claims on Iraq / Dug-Up Iraqi Parts' Potential Faces Doubt



<http://www.bayarea.com/mld/mercurynews/news/special_packages/iraq/6302221.htm>


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Dug-Up Iraqi Parts' Potential Faces Doubt

CHARLES J. HANLEY
Associated Press

VIENNA, Austria - A top U.N. weapons hunter says it would have been
"virtually impossible" for Iraq to revive a nuclear bomb program with
equipment recently dug up from a Baghdad backyard, as the Bush
administration contends.

Jacques Baute said the long-term monitoring of Iraq's nuclear
establishment planned by the U.N. Security Council would have stifled
any attempt to build a huge uranium-enrichment plant for making bomb
material.

"This is a mistake people are making," Baute said. Such contentions
ignore the fact that Iraq would have operated for years under
international controls had the U.N. plan not been aborted by war, he
said.

Baute also said in an interview with The Associated Press that it
appears the unearthed cache of uranium enrichment parts, surrendered by
an Iraqi scientist last month, lacked critical components, and its
accompanying blueprints were marred by errors.

Baute, a French nuclear physicist, led the International Atomic Energy
Agency inspection teams that - until the U.S.-British invasion in March
- crisscrossed Iraq in search of banned weapons.

His assessment of the hidden equipment came as a furor grew in
Washington over President Bush's use of an earlier allegation - that
Baghdad sought uranium from Niger - to bolster the White House case for
war.

It was Baute's investigation last February that unmasked as forgeries
the documents that underpinned the claims about Niger.

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice is holding to the Niger
story, noting that the British government now says other, unspecified
intelligence supports the uranium allegation. But London hasn't supplied
Washington with any such information, Rice acknowledged.

Likewise, Baute's office has received nothing from the British three
weeks after asking for the purported independent evidence, said sources
at IAEA headquarters in Vienna, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The U.N. agency's experts believe all reports of a Niger connection stem
from the same bogus documents.

Eliminating Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction was the main
reason given by Bush for invading the Arab country. But three months of
searching by the U.S. military has found no banned arms, just as some
700 inspections by U.N. teams from November to March also uncovered no
signs of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons programs.

Before the war, Baghdad said all its chemical and biological weapons had
been destroyed during U.N. inspections in the 1990s.

However, President Bush said Monday he remained convinced that Saddam
Hussein was trying to develop a weapons program that threatened the
world and justified the United States going to war. "Our country made
the right decision," Bush said.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher had no comment when asked
about Baute's statements. But he told reporters: "I think the findings
in Iraq demonstrate that Iraq had not abandoned its intentions on
nuclear programs. Just buried them. Maybe more. We'll see. We'll find
the full extent of that as time goes on."

Iraq never had nuclear arms but was making progress building
sophisticated centrifuges to produce enriched uranium for bombs when the
1991 Gulf War intervened. Inspectors dismantled the program.

In early June, the centrifuge program chief, Mahdi Shukur Obeidi, turned
over to U.S. authorities equipment and documents he said he buried in
his garden in 1991, when he said Iraqi leaders told him to hold the
parts to revive the program.

The IAEA notes that Obeidi's account tends to undercut one White House
contention: that Saddam's government had secretly resumed its nuclear
program in recent years.

White House press secretary Ari Fleischer has instead now focused on the
Obeidi cache's potential, saying it would have allowed Iraq to rebuild
weapons facilities "once sanctions were ended."

But Baute, in the interview Friday, pointed out that once U.N. economic
sanctions were ended, after inspectors certified Baghdad's weapons work
had ceased, the Security Council was to have imposed an Ongoing
Monitoring and Verification regime on Iraq - controls short-circuited by
the U.S.-British invasion.

Inspectors, with unhindered access under U.N. resolutions, would have
kept close watch on Iraq's military-industrial complex, aided by air and
water sampling technology, satellite and aerial surveillance, and
monitoring of Iraq's imports.

An enrichment plant, a vast array of thousands of centrifuges, would
have been easily detected, said Baute, who once helped build French
nuclear bombs.

"To have turned it into a full-blown enrichment program while OMV was in
place would have been virtually impossible," he said of the Obeidi
equipment.

Although U.S. officials have not shared their Obeidi data with the IAEA,
Baute's experts closely examined available photos of the components and
found they included one critical part, the bottom bearing assembly.

But other vital elements apparently are lacking, Baute said, including
the advanced carbon-fiber rotor, the spinning tube in which uranium gas
is separated.

"It is far, far from being a complete set," he said.

He also noted the Iraqis would have had to expose themselves by
searching for foreign manufacturers to duplicate complex components.

As for Obeidi's documents, they appear to be copies of centrifuge
drawings and papers seized by IAEA inspectors in 1995, Baute said.

"These Iraqi drawings seem to contain mistakes," he said. German
engineers who secretly assisted the centrifuge program apparently didn't
leave their hosts finished designs, and the Iraqis erred at times in
filling in gaps.

=============================

<http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story2&cid=540&u=/ap/20030714/ap_on_re_mi_ea/iraq_backyard_cache&printer=1>

Dug-Up Iraqi Parts' Potential Faces Doubt
37 minutes ago

By CHARLES J. HANLEY, AP Special Correspondent

VIENNA, Austria - A top U.N. weapons hunter says it would have been
"virtually impossible" for Iraq (news - web sites) to revive a nuclear
bomb program with equipment recently dug up from a Baghdad backyard, as
the Bush administration contends.

Jacques Baute said the long-term monitoring of Iraq's nuclear
establishment planned by the U.N. Security Council would have stifled
any attempt to build a huge uranium-enrichment plant for making bomb
material.


"This is a mistake people are making," Baute said. Such contentions
ignore the fact that Iraq would have operated for years under
international controls had the U.N. plan not been aborted by war, he
said.


Baute also said in an interview with The Associated Press that it
appears the unearthed cache of uranium enrichment parts, surrendered by
an Iraqi scientist last month, lacked critical components, and its
accompanying blueprints were marred by errors.


Baute, a French nuclear physicist, led the International Atomic Energy
Agency inspection teams that — until the U.S.-British invasion in March
— crisscrossed Iraq in search of banned weapons.


His assessment of the hidden equipment came as a furor grew in
Washington over President Bush (news - web sites)'s use of an earlier
allegation — that Baghdad sought uranium from Niger — to bolster the
White House case for war.


It was Baute's investigation last February that unmasked as forgeries
the documents that underpinned the claims about Niger.


National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice (news - web sites) is holding
to the Niger story, noting that the British government now says other,
unspecified intelligence supports the uranium allegation. But London
hasn't supplied Washington with any such information, Rice acknowledged.


Likewise, Baute's office has received nothing from the British three
weeks after asking for the purported independent evidence, said sources
at IAEA headquarters in Vienna, speaking on condition of anonymity.


The U.N. agency's experts believe all reports of a Niger connection stem
from the same bogus documents.


Eliminating Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction was the main
reason given by Bush for invading the Arab country. But three months of
searching by the U.S. military has found no banned arms, just as some
700 inspections by U.N. teams from November to March also uncovered no
signs of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons programs.


Before the war, Baghdad said all its chemical and biological weapons had
been destroyed during U.N. inspections in the 1990s.


However, President Bush said Monday he remained convinced that Saddam
Hussein (news - web sites) was trying to develop a weapons program that
threatened the world and justified the United States going to war. "Our
country made the right decision," Bush said.


State Department spokesman Richard Boucher had no comment when asked
about Baute's statements. But he told reporters: "I think the findings
in Iraq demonstrate that Iraq had not abandoned its intentions on
nuclear programs. Just buried them. Maybe more. We'll see. We'll find
the full extent of that as time goes on."


Iraq never had nuclear arms but was making progress building
sophisticated centrifuges to produce enriched uranium for bombs when the
1991 Gulf War (news - web sites) intervened. Inspectors dismantled the
program.


In early June, the centrifuge program chief, Mahdi Shukur Obeidi, turned
over to U.S. authorities equipment and documents he said he buried in
his garden in 1991, when he said Iraqi leaders told him to hold the
parts to revive the program.


The IAEA notes that Obeidi's account tends to undercut one White House
contention: that Saddam's government had secretly resumed its nuclear
program in recent years.


White House press secretary Ari Fleischer (news - web sites) has instead
now focused on the Obeidi cache's potential, saying it would have
allowed Iraq to rebuild weapons facilities "once sanctions were ended."

But Baute, in the interview Friday, pointed out that once U.N. economic
sanctions were ended, after inspectors certified Baghdad's weapons work
had ceased, the Security Council was to have imposed an Ongoing
Monitoring and Verification regime on Iraq — controls short-circuited by
the U.S.-British invasion.

Inspectors, with unhindered access under U.N. resolutions, would have
kept close watch on Iraq's military-industrial complex, aided by air and
water sampling technology, satellite and aerial surveillance, and
monitoring of Iraq's imports.

An enrichment plant, a vast array of thousands of centrifuges, would
have been easily detected, said Baute, who once helped build French
nuclear bombs.

"To have turned it into a full-blown enrichment program while OMV was in
place would have been virtually impossible," he said of the Obeidi
equipment.

Although U.S. officials have not shared their Obeidi data with the IAEA,
Baute's experts closely examined available photos of the components and
found they included one critical part, the bottom bearing assembly.

But other vital elements apparently are lacking, Baute said, including
the advanced carbon-fiber rotor, the spinning tube in which uranium gas
is separated.

"It is far, far from being a complete set," he said.

He also noted the Iraqis would have had to expose themselves by
searching for foreign manufacturers to duplicate complex components.

As for Obeidi's documents, they appear to be copies of centrifuge
drawings and papers seized by IAEA inspectors in 1995, Baute said.

"These Iraqi drawings seem to contain mistakes," he said. German
engineers who secretly assisted the centrifuge program apparently didn't
leave their hosts finished designs, and the Iraqis erred at times in
filling in gaps.



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