Scientist unearths Iraq's n-plan papers

WASHINGTON JUNE 26. A former Iraqi nuclear scientist has provided American authorities parts and documents from Saddam Hussein's nuclear weapons programme from over 12 years ago, a U.S. intelligence official said on Wednesday.

The scientist, Mahdi Shukur Obeidi, said he had kept the parts buried in his garden at his Baghdad home on the orders of Mr. Hussein's Government, according to the intelligence official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Once sanctions against Iraq ended, the material was to be dug up and used to reconstitute a programme to enrich uranium to make a nuclear weapon, Mr. Obeidi claimed.

U.S. authorities believe Mr. Obeidi's statements are credible, and they are regarded as evidence that Iraq made an effort to hide parts of its original programmes from U.N. inspectors.

Still, the intelligence official acknowledged the find was not the ``smoking gun'' that U.S. authorities are seeking to prove the Bush administration's claims that Iraq had an active programme to develop a nuclear weapon.

Before the 1991 Gulf War, Mr. Obeidi headed Iraq's programme to make centrifuges that would enrich uranium for nuclear weapons, the official said. Most or all of that programme was dismantled after U.N. inspections in the early 1990s. — AP

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