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[casi] WMD's Iraq - Courtesy USA

[ Presenting plain-text part of multi-format email ] 3rd August 2003

Looted and for sale in Iraq: the deadly core of nuclear weapons
Exclusive: Potentially lethal radioactive sources missing from Saddam&rsquos
biggest N-plant
By David Pratt, Foreign Editor, and Felicity Arbuthnot
PURE uranium oxide which could be used in the making of a &ldquodirty
nuclear bomb&rdquo capable of killing countless people is being offered for
sale in a Basra souk for $250,000.
Senior American officials have confirmed that rampant looting was discovered
by US marines arriving at the al-Tuwaitha nuclear site on April 7.
Melissa Fleming, a spokes woman for the International Atomic Energy Agency
(IAEA) in Vienna, says: &ldquoAs many as 400 potentially lethal radioactive
sources are still missing from the inventory at al-Tuwaitha.&rdquo
The Sunday Herald source, who cannot be named for fear of reprisals, was
approached by black marketeers in Basra and asked if he would help sell the
material. He said: &ldquoThe cylinders are about a foot long, grey in colour
with a red band around the top. The skull and crossbones warning logo, and
the label &lsquopure uranium oxide&rsquo are clearly marked in
English.&rdquo He added that it is thought to have come from the al-Tuwaitha
complex, which is 15 miles southeast of Baghdad.
John Large, a leading independent nuclear consultant, said the size and
description of the cylinders &ldquosuggests this is enriched uranium&rdquo.
He added: &ldquoA well-informed terrorist might be able to construct a crude
nuclear device which would act like a mini-nuclear reactor and generate
highly radioactive fission products for release into the urban
Even if the uranium was not enriched, he says any radio active material is
dangerous in the hands of terrorists because of its psychological impact.
&ldquoThe public perception of all things nuclear is of a fate worse than
death. The use of even low-level uranium in a dirty bomb would cause
widespread psychological and economic panic.&rdquo
US Army officials who checked the al-Tuwaitha site soon after the marines
arrived encountered high radiation levels in the storage building and
withdrew. For three weeks prior to this, hundreds of villagers who live in
the shadow of the barbed wire fences that surround the labyrinth of the
nuclear plant had been bathing in and drinking water laced with radioactive
contaminants from barrels they had stolen, emptied and used as containers.
The barrels, experts say, had held uranium ores, low- enriched uranium
&ldquoyellowcake&rdquo, nuclear sludge and other by-products. Some villagers
have since contracted symptoms attributed to radiation contamination.
Ever since, atomic agency officials have pressed for access to the site, but
American officials have resisted. &ldquoThey say that the mandate of the
agency in Iraq has expired and that allied forces are in charge,&rdquo said
Melissa Fleming.
The uncertainty surrounding the case underlines a worrying new trend, as a
spate of incidents from Nigeria to the former Soviet Union and Latin America
suggests radioactive materials needed to build dirty bombs could emerge
almost anywhere.

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