Archive for Sunday, January 19, 2003

Official: Documents point to failed nuclear efforts

January 19, 2003

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— An Iraqi scientist confirmed Saturday that documents found at his home outlined high-tech attempts to enrich uranium in the 1980s but said the information was from an experimental program that was declared a decade ago.

Senior experts in the U.N. agency have said the enrichment method -- which could be used to make nuclear weapons -- proved too sophisticated for the Iraqis to exploit at the time.

U.N. nuclear chief Mohamed ElBaradei, who oversees the U.N. review of Iraq's nuclear program, told The Associated Press the research outlined in the documents had "something to do with laser enrichment."

U.N. officials have said Iraq's attempt at "laser isotope separation," begun in the 1970s, was a failure and was largely abandoned by 1987 in favor of more promising approaches to enriching uranium for nuclear bombs.

ElBaradei said the issue appeared to be more whether the Iraqis included the information found in the documents in the 12,000-page declaration they submitted to the United Nations last month.

Iraq denies it has any more banned weapons. The United States and Britain insist it does and threaten to disarm Iraq by force unless it gives up those weapons and cooperates fully with U.N. inspectors.

The Iraqis claim the declaration proves that their country no longer owns or is developing nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. Top U.N. inspectors say the documentation was incomplete and failed to support Baghdad's claims.

The documents were found Thursday by U.N. inspectors in the home of 55-year-old physicist Faleh Hassan -- once associated with his government's nuclear program -- as the inspectors paid their first unannounced calls on private homes in Iraq.

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