FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, September 3, 1998
CONTACT: Steven Dolley
RITTER TESTIMONY CONFIRMS NCI'S WARNINGS
THAT IRAQ HAS ACTIVE NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROGRAM
Former UN Inspector Scott Ritter today testified in the U.S. Senate that the UN Special Commission on Iraq has intelligence indicating Iraq has assembled the components for three nuclear weapons and lacks only the fissile material needed to set them off.
"This is ominous news and should dispel all the loose talk that Iraq no longer poses a nuclear threat," commented Paul Leventhal, president of the Nuclear Control Institute. "Iraq could be only days or weeks away from having nuclear weapons if it acquires the needed plutonium or bomb-grade uranium on the black market or by other means."
Last February, Nuclear Control Institute issued a report highly critical of the International Atomic Energy Agency's recommendation at the time to curtail its inspections in Iraq because of "diminishing returns" and to switch to less aggressive monitoring efforts. NCI found that the IAEA's own reporting to the Security Council raised concerns that Iraqi nuclear scientists had continued to advance their earlier work on nuclear weapons and to lie about their activities to UN inspectors.
NCI's report concluded: "After examining the evidence, it is prudent to assume that there is a small, well-concealed nuclear weapons program in Iraq, possibly with fully developed components suitable for rapid assembly into one or more workable weapons if the requisite fissile material (highly enriched uranium or plutonium) were acquired. If Iraq has been able to smuggle in the needed material from, say, Russia or another former Soviet Republic without being detected, the nuclear threat could be quite real and even eclipse the CBW threat."
Leventhal commented: "Ritter's testimony confirms our earlier conclusion and should lay to rest any further efforts by France, Russia and China in the Security Council to 'close the nuclear file' on Iraq."
The NCI and IAEA reports on nuclear inspections in Iraq can be found on the NCI Website:
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