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Thursday, October 8, 1998



A new report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) not only ignores intelligence that Iraq possesses nuclear-bomb components, but downplays the significance of Iraq's weapons- inspection ban, and fuels efforts in the Security Council to "close" the Iraqi nuclear file, the Nuclear Control Institute (NCI) warned today.

"The IAEA report is schizophrenic," said Paul Leventhal, NCI president. "First, it describes the lack of Iraqi cooperation and the major gaps in IAEA's information on Iraq's weaponization program. Then it concludes that 'it is the Security Council's prerogative to decide whether Iraq has complied with its obligations.' Finally, the IAEA advises the Security Council that, 'should it do so, the decision would not change either the comprehensive or intrusive nature of the IAEA's verification activities in Iraq.'"

"This is the most embarrassing and indefensible of the IAEA reports on Iraq," Leventhal said. "Its suggestion that the Security Council can consider closing the nuclear file is insupportable in light of intelligence that Iraq possesses components for three or four nuclear bombs, lacking only the fissile material to complete the weapons. It's like putting a convicted felon up for parole who's packing a gun that lacks only bullets."

Scott Ritter, former head of the UN Special Commission's effort to unmask Iraq's concealment program, revealed UNSCOM's intelligence on the nuclear components in Congressional testimony last month. U.S. government experts have acknowledged the existence and the plausibility of the report. IAEA Action Team head Gary Dillon and UNSCOM chief Richard Butler last week publicly denied knowing of the UNSCOM intelligence---"a position they know privately to be false," said Leventhal.

"This craven effort by the IAEA and UNSCOM to discredit Major Ritter---after he served them bravely and faithfully for seven years---is the most repugnant aspect of this whole sordid story," added Leventhal.

The IAEA report states that Iraq's suspension of inspections on August 5 "included instructions to Iraqi personnel not to respond to any questions relating to Iraq's clandestine nuclear programme." As a result, "the IAEA is currently unable to investigate further any aspects of Iraq's clandestine nuclear programme or to ensure...that prohibited activities are not being carried out in Iraq..." These questions include such matters as "documentary evidence of Iraq's actual technical achievements in nuclear weapons design and centrifuge development..." The IAEA report also warns that "Iraq has the knowledge and technical expertise to exploit, for nuclear weapons purposes, any relevant materials or technology to which it may gain access in the future."

Reports by NCI research director Steven Dolley, issued in February and May, assessed the significance of these unanswered questions. "The significance remains the same," Leventhal said. "The nuclear threat in Iraq is real, but the IAEA is sadly incapable of acknowledging it." The IAEA's latest report, NCI's reports, and other information on Iraq's nuclear weapons program can be found on the NCI web site at http://www.nci.org/sadb.htm.

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