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Experts:US "Discovery" Of Nuclear Materials Already Known

by C/O Diogenes Friday, Apr. 11, 2003 at 6:21 PM

But an expert familiar with U.N. nuclear inspections told The Associated Press that it was implausible to believe that U.S. forces had uncovered anything new at the site. Instead, the official said, the Marines apparently broke U.N. seals designed to ensure the materials aren't diverted for weapons use - or end up in the wrong hands.

Experts:US "Discovery" Of Nuclear Materials Already Known



VIENNA (AP)--U.S. troops who suggested they uncovered evidence of an active nuclear weapons program in Iraq unwittingly may have stumbled across known stocks of low-grade uranium and illegally broken U.N. seals, officials said Thursday.

Leaders of a U.S. Marine Corps combat engineering unit claimed earlier this week to have found an underground network of laboratories, warehouses and bombproof offices beneath the closely monitored Tuwaitha nuclear research center just south of Baghdad.

The Marines said they discovered 14 buildings at the site which emitted unusually high levels of radiation, and that a search of one building revealed " many, many drums" containing highly radioactive material. If documented, such a discovery could bolster Bush administration claims that Saddam Hussein was trying to develop nuclear weaponry.

The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, which has inspected the Tuwaitha nuclear complex at least two dozen times and maintains a thick dossier on the site, had no immediate comment.

But an expert familiar with U.N. nuclear inspections told The Associated Press that it was implausible to believe that U.S. forces had uncovered anything new at the site. Instead, the official said, the Marines apparently broke U.N. seals designed to ensure the materials aren't diverted for weapons use - or end up in the wrong hands.

"What happened apparently was that they broke IAEA seals, which is very unfortunate because those seals are integral to ensuring that nuclear material doesn't get diverted," the expert said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Several tons of low-grade uranium has been stored at Tuwaitha, Iraq's principle nuclear research center and a site that has been under IAEA safeguards for years, the official said. The Iraqis were allowed to keep the material because it was unfit for weapons use without costly and time-consuming enrichment.

The uranium was inspected by the U.N. nuclear agency twice a year and was kept under IAEA seal - at least until early this week, when the Marines seized control of the site.

"It's hard to believe that the U.S. military would not be well aware of this site - it's the center of Iraq's nuclear research activities," the expert told AP. "Just as you wouldn't be surprised to find hamburgers at McDonald's, no one should be surprised to find nuclear materials at this site."

The U.N. nuclear agency's inspectors have visited Tuwaitha about two dozen times, including sending inspectors with special mountaineering training who went underground, according to IAEA documents.

"Inspectors have been in Tuwaitha since 1991, and they've inspected it 12 times in the last four months," the expert said. "It's the single most inspected, understood site that the IAEA has in Iraq. They've been up and down and in and out of Tuwaitha. No site is more well-known to us."

"At a minimum, the commanders apparently weren't provided with warnings that when you come to a certain site, you should expect X, Y and Z," the official added.

The Tuwaitha complex, on a bend in the Tigris River about 30 kilometers south of Baghdad, has been a consistent focus of U.N. inspection efforts that resumed in November after a nearly four-year break.

The IAEA, charged with the hunt for evidence of a nuclear program in Iraq, told the Security Council just before the war that it had uncovered no firm evidence that Saddam was renewing efforts to add nuclear weapons to his arsenal.

IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei, clearly wary of any coalition claims, said this week that any alleged discoveries of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq would have to be verified by U.N. inspectors "to generate the required credibility."

ElBaradei said the inspectors should return as soon as possible, subject to Security Council guidance, to resume their search for banned arms.

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LATEST COMMENTS ABOUT THIS ARTICLE
Listed below are the 10 latest comments of 28 posted about this article.
These comments are anonymously submitted by the website visitors.
TITLE AUTHOR DATE
Destroying the ... Diogenes Friday, Apr. 11, 2003 at 6:22 PM
Clever Editing Job, DI MadMaxim Friday, Apr. 11, 2003 at 6:54 PM
I left out nothing... Diogenes Friday, Apr. 11, 2003 at 7:02 PM
Another site... MadMaxim Friday, Apr. 11, 2003 at 7:09 PM
I got it off Market Watch... Diogenes Friday, Apr. 11, 2003 at 7:34 PM
Which "Market Watch"? MadMaxim Friday, Apr. 11, 2003 at 7:44 PM
Go... Diogenes Friday, Apr. 11, 2003 at 7:47 PM
LOL MadMaxim Friday, Apr. 11, 2003 at 7:54 PM
Is that your nose... MadMaxim Friday, Apr. 11, 2003 at 7:56 PM
Even were I inclined... Diogenes Friday, Apr. 11, 2003 at 8:04 PM
hehehe fresca Friday, Apr. 11, 2003 at 8:05 PM
"But an expert... daveman Friday, Apr. 11, 2003 at 11:29 PM
im american thomas Saturday, Apr. 12, 2003 at 1:08 AM
daveman....if you had a brain, you'd be dangerous. systemfailure Saturday, Apr. 12, 2003 at 1:12 AM
thomas daveman Saturday, Apr. 12, 2003 at 1:14 AM
Huh? Bart Saturday, Apr. 12, 2003 at 1:15 AM
systemfailure daveman Saturday, Apr. 12, 2003 at 1:22 AM
FOX NEWS=EXTRA thomas Saturday, Apr. 12, 2003 at 1:27 AM
HA HA HA daveman Saturday, Apr. 12, 2003 at 1:33 AM
the real world thomas Saturday, Apr. 12, 2003 at 1:41 AM
HERE'S A CHANNEL FOR YOU To: Slaveman to the Bush Evil Ideology Saturday, Apr. 12, 2003 at 1:44 AM
HOW ABOUT THIS ONE, TOO? To: The Slaveman Idiot Saturday, Apr. 12, 2003 at 1:46 AM
thanks for the mammaries systemfailure Saturday, Apr. 12, 2003 at 1:51 AM
Biiiia aach systemfailure Saturday, Apr. 12, 2003 at 1:53 AM
And my point is... daveman Saturday, Apr. 12, 2003 at 4:48 AM
Here is the story on MSNBC Point Saturday, Apr. 12, 2003 at 5:49 AM
MSNBC version... MadMaxim Saturday, Apr. 12, 2003 at 6:25 AM
This bears repeating: daveman Saturday, Apr. 12, 2003 at 6:32 AM

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