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Wednesday, December 16, 1998

CONTACT: Steven Dolley


There is a real danger that Iraq has nuclear weapons---or at least the components and possibly the nuclear material for rapidly assembling them---and is successfully concealing these items from nuclear inspectors, the Nuclear Control Institute warned today.

"The problem is that the International Atomic Energy Agency still refuses to take the same confrontational approach as UNSCOM and, unlike UNSCOM, accepts Iraqi claims without first obtaining missing documents and other evidence that Iraq's nuclear weapons program has in fact been destroyed," said NCI president, Paul Leventhal.

Leventhal cited IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei's current report to the U.N. Security Council that Iraq has "provided the necessary level of cooperation" (since inspections resumed in mid-November) to enable the IAEA to complete inspections "efficiently and effectively."

Previously, the IAEA reported that all known nuclear weapons activities have been "destroyed, removed or rendered harmless." The agency also rejected as non-credible former UNSCOM inspector Scott Ritter's information that Iraq was concealing components for three or four complete nuclear weapons, lacking only the fissile material. Ritter warned Iraq could be "days or weeks" away from nuclear weapons if it obtained fissile material on the black market. The IAEA has acknowledged such acquisition of nuclear material would be difficult to detect.

"If UNSCOM rather than the IAEA had responsibility for nuclear inspections, there would not be the dangerously mistaken impression that exists today that Iraq's nuclear weapons threat is dead," Leventhal said. "The Security Council should not pressure UNSCOM to become just like the IAEA; it should be directing the IAEA to confront Iraq like UNSCOM does, or turn over the nuclear portfolio to UNSCOM."

A recent Washington Post article by Leventhal and NCI Research Director Steven Dolley comparing IAEA and UNSCOM inspections, as well as a list of unresolved nuclear issues, are available on the NCI website:

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