- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 19, 2003

From combined dispatches
LARNACA, Cyprus Documents found by U.N. weapons inspectors at the home of an Iraqi scientist last week indicate Baghdad may be trying to develop nuclear weapons, U.N. officials and Western diplomats said yesterday.
The head of the U.N. nuclear agency said the documents appear to outline high-tech attempts to enrich uranium in the 1980s. Other senior agency experts, however, said the method which could be used to make nuclear weapons proved too sophisticated for the Iraqis to exploit at the time, indicating that the documents might be related to current or recent work.
Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency that oversees the review of Iraq's nuclear program, told the Associated Press the research outlined in the documents had "something to do with laser enrichment."
The revelation follows last Thursday's discovery of a number of warheads at an ammunition storage facility south of Baghdad that had been designed for storing chemical and biological weapons.
Mr. ElBaradei and Hans Blix, who heads the U.N. search for biological and chemical weapons, arrived in Larnaca, Cyprus, yesterday for an overnight stay before setting off for Baghdad to press the Iraqi government for more openness.
They are to report Jan. 27 to the Security Council on Iraq's cooperation and the findings of the inspectors. The report could tip the scale toward war or peace.
U.N. officials have said Iraq's attempt at "laser isotope separation," begun in the 1970s, failed and was largely abandoned by 1987 in favor of more promising approaches to enriching uranium for nuclear bombs.
But Mr. ElBaradei said the importance of the find appeared to be whether the Iraqis had included the information in their 12,000-page declaration submitted to the United Nations last month.
Iraq denies having banned weapons. The United States and Britain insist it does and threaten to disarm Iraq by force unless it gives up those weapons and cooperates fully with U.N. inspectors.
"If it's something we did not know about, it obviously doesn't show the transparency we've been preaching," Mr. ElBaradei said, alluding to U.N. demands that Baghdad be more forthcoming.
The Iraqis claim the declaration submitted last month proves they no longer own or are developing nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. Top U.N. inspectors say the declaration was incomplete and failed to support Baghdad's claims to have destroyed banned weapons.
The documents were found Thursday by U.N. inspectors in the home of 55-year-old physicist Faleh Hassan once associated with Baghdad's nuclear program as they paid their first two unannounced calls on private homes of scientists in Iraq.
At a late-night news conference yesterday, Mr. Hassan said that Iraq canceled its laser-enrichment research program in 1988 and that he never worked on that project.
"I worked for the Nuclear Energy Agency, which was separate from the [enrichment] program," he said in Baghdad.
Mr. Hassan, director of the Al-Razi military industrial site, said the documents were from his private research work and the graduate theses of students he has advised. Mr. ElBaradei, in an interview with CNN, said the documents were official.
"The inspectors put their hands on personal documents which have nothing to do with the former [nuclear] program," Agence France-Presse quoted Mr. Hassan as saying in Arabic.
"Unfortunately, ElBaradei made hasty declarations, without referring to the former documents," he said.
A Western diplomat closely involved with the investigation into Iraq's nuclear capability, however, confirmed yesterday that the documents showed that Baghdad was still attempting to develop the bomb, the London Sunday Telegraph reported.
"These are not old documents, they are new and they relate to on-going work taking place in Iraq to develop nuclear weapons," the official told the Telegraph on the condition of anonymity. The official suggested that the documents "had been hidden at the scientists' homes" on the personal orders of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
Meanwhile U.N. arms inspectors yesterday returned to the military depot where they had found empty chemical warheads last week. In all, they visited five sites, speeding up their search.
The inspectors' discoveries last week follow a radical improvement in relations between U.N. officials and Western intelligence, which had been reluctant to hand over sensitive information for fear that it might fall into the hands of Iraqi officials.
In particular, intelligence officials were keen that a team of U.N. inspectors visit the homes of two Iraqi nuclear scientists living in the outskirts of Baghdad. This followed information from high-ranking officials at Iraq's Ministry of Military Industrialization that suggested Saddam had ordered that top secret nuclear documents should be hidden at the homes of scientists working on the project, the Telegraph reported.
As one inspection team discovered the empty chemical warheads, nuclear-weapons experts were cordoning off the street where two scientists lived in Baghdad's al-Ghazalia neighborhood. They searched the homes of Mr. Hassan, a specialist in laser equipment, and Shaker al-Jibouri, a nuclear scientist.
Mr. Blix and Mr. ElBaradei said yesterday that Baghdad needed to do more to convince the world it was not hiding anything.
"Iraq has not cooperated sufficiently with the United Nations weapons inspectors, and we will impress the seriousness of the situation to them," Mr. Blix told reporters as he arrived at his hotel in Larnaca.


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide