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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                           CONTACT: Steven Dolley

Wednesday, January 12, 2000                                                   202-822-8444






            WASHINGTON---Today’s announcement that Iraq will issue visas to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors is a welcome development, but the routine inspection that will take place is no substitute for the comprehensive, intrusive inspections that are needed, according to the Nuclear Control Institute (NCI).


            “The Agency will be permitted to verify the location of Iraq’s declared nuclear materials,” said NCI President Paul Leventhal, “but there should be no confusion: Iraq is not granting the IAEA total access.  Many crucial issues about Saddam’s bomb program will remain unresolved---including the whereabouts of three complete sets of nuclear-bomb components, lacking only the fissile material to make them operational.  Iraq must be required to permit inspectors to look anywhere, anytime, and must answer all unresolved questions.”


An IAEA spokesman in Vienna characterized the upcoming inspection, scheduled to begin next week, as having “a limited objective, driven by the old traditional safeguards system.  These are safeguards inspectors, conducting an annual check.”


Leventhal underscored that point.  “Prior to the Gulf War, the ‘traditional safeguards system’ failed completely to detect Saddam Hussein’s multi-billion-dollar Manhattan Project,” he said.  “This visit will be essentially a bookkeeping exercise, not an intrusive inspection.  Iraq will not permit the IAEA inspectors to see anything that might be remotely incriminating.”


            IAEA inspectors will attempt to verify that Iraq has not diverted some 1.7 metric tons of uranium enriched to 2.6% U-235 (so-called “low enriched uranium,” or LEU).  According to officials involved in the decisions, the IAEA decided in late 1991 or early 1992 to permit Iraq to keep this LEU, as well as some 13 metric tons of natural uranium, for possible future use in a ‘peaceful’ nuclear program.


Dr. Edwin Lyman, NCI Scientific Director, estimated that Iraq’s low-enriched uranium stocks would be sufficient to produce over 45 kilograms of bomb-grade uranium, enough for two nuclear weapons.  Only about 260 small gas centrifuges would be required to enrich this material to bomb-grade in one year.  Iraq’s known stocks of natural uranium could be converted into an additional 70 kilograms of bomb-grade uranium over a somewhat greater length of time.


            The IAEA will be permitted to conduct limited, “routine” inspections under the terms of Iraq’s safeguards agreement with the Agency.  This agreement predates, and is separate from, the disarmament regime established in 1991 under the terms of UN Resolution 687, the Gulf War ceasefire, and the new inspection system adopted by the UN Security Council in December.  Iraq refused to accept the new inspection regime, stating firmly that no weapons inspections will be permitted until sanctions are lifted.  Weapons inspectors have not visited Iraq since December 1998.


For more information on Iraq’s nuclear weapons program, including a full report on unresolved issues, visit NCI’s website “Saddam and the Bomb” at



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