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Tuesday, July 28, 1998

CONTACT: Steven Dolley


An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report on Iraq's nuclear weapons program, to be presented tomorrow to the U.N. Security Council, acknowledges a number of important unresolved questions about current Iraqi capabilities that the Agency had previously avoided or had played down, the Nuclear Control Institute (NCI) found today.

The IAEA's latest progress report on its inspections in Iraq addressed several concerns raised by NCI in a letter to IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei on June 25 and in a number of earlier NCI analyses of IAEA reporting on Iraq.

Specifically, the IAEA's latest report, due to be released tomorrow, discusses one of NCI's key concerns---Iraq's failure to turn over nuclear-weapon components and bomb designs. The IAEA report also acknowledges "there remains in Iraq a considerable intellectual resource in the form of the cadre of well-educated, highly experienced personnel"---a risk also highlighted by NCI.

As a result, the report concludes, "Iraq has the knowledge and technical capability to exploit, for nuclear weapons purposes, any relevant materials or technology to which it may gain access in the future." This possibility was discussed in the Agency's October 1997 report, but notably absent from a follow-up report in April, leading some Security Council members to press for "closing the nuclear file" on Iraq.

"Our reports apparently helped draw the IAEA's attention to these unresolved issues, and we are grateful that the IAEA now acknowledges many important questions still need to be answered," said NCI President Paul Leventhal. "The Security Council should not close the nuclear file or weaken sanctions until these matters are fully resolved." The next full Security Council review of Iraq sanctions is scheduled for October.

Some key issues raised by NCI appear not to be addressed. There is no indication that the report considers the question of a full-scale model of Iraq's bomb design, reported by intelligence sources to have been fabricated from metal parts but never located by the IAEA. Nor has Iraq produced any formal governmental decree ending its nuclear weapons program.

Citing "diminishing returns" from its inspections in Iraq, the Agency is concentrating its resources on ongoing monitoring and verification (OMV) measures, even though the Agency concedes in today's press release that OMV "cannot guarantee detection of readily concealable proscribed activities such as computer weaponisation studies."

NCI's recent correspondence with ElBaradei, as well as its two reports on unresolved questions about Iraq's nuclear weapons program, are available on the NCI website at http://www.nci.org/sadb.htm

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