On Friday, the chief U.N. weapons inspectors gave their latest report.
Overall, chief U.N. inspector Hans Blix reported the inspections are yielding results. He said Iraq is cooperating much more than it did in the 1990s and that this cooperation has accelerated over the past month. In particular, Blix said Iraq’s destruction of its al-Samoud 2 missiles constituted QUOTE “a substantial measure of disarmament.”
The director of the International Atomic Energy Agency Mohamed ElBaradei said a key piece of evidence the US has used was faked.
After a careful investigation, UN and independent experts concluded that documents purportedly showing Iraqi officials tried to buy uranium in Africa two years ago were not authentic. The Bush administration was using the documents to claim Iraq is developing a nuclear weapons program.
The Washington Post reports sources familiar with the forgery investigation described the faked evidence as a series of letters between Iraqi agents and officials in the central African nation of Niger. The documents had been given to the U.N. inspectors by Britain and reviewed extensively by U.S. intelligence. But the forgers made relatively crude errors that eventually gave them away — including names and titles that did not match up with the individuals who held office at the time. One US official claimed QUOTE: “We fell for it.”
ElBaradei also again rejected a key Bush administration claim that Iraq tried to purchase aluminum tubes for use in uranium enrichment. He said experts had concluded the tubes were for a rocket engine program, as Iraq had said. President Bush twice claimed otherwise in major speeches. And Secretary of State General Colin Powell repeated the claim in his speech to the Security Council on Friday after ElBaradei had rejected the claim.
- Mohamed El Baradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, recorded March 7, 2003.
- Phyllis Bennis, fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington DC, specializing in Middle East and United Nations issues She is the author of the book Before and After: U.S. Foreign Policy and the September 11th Crisis.