Iraq Revels Uranium-Enrichment Equipment For First Time
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ Iraq on Monday revealed an extensive, secret program for the manufacture of enriched uranium that could be used to make nuclear bombs, the United Nations said.
In what seemed to be a defensive gesture after threats of military attack by the United States, Iraq released a 30-page document detailing three programs for developing enriched uranium.
Late last month, when reports began to surface of Iraqi nuclear deception, President Bush said he could not rule out military strikes against Baghdad’s nuclear plants.
Dimitri Perricos, chief inspector of the U.N. nuclear inspection team, said the list of nuclear production sites released Monday showed Iraq has long been in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The list also appeared to confirm that Iraq has been violating terms of the U.N. Security Council resolution that ended the Persian Gulf War. The April 3 resolution ordered Iraq to destroy all its weapons of mass destruction.
A statement issued from Vienna by the International Atomic Energy Agency said the list ″indicates the existence of three parallel programs for uranium enrichment related equipment and facilities.″
Iraqi officials had never previously disclosed they had uranium-enrichment material, and had flatly denied they had a nuclear weapons program.
Under the 1970 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, signatories must refrain from developing nuclear weapons, and must report all nuclear programs in detail to the IAEA. Iraq is one of 142 signatories, including South Africa, which signed the treaty Monday.
″We understand that ... Saddam Hussein’s government admits Iraq was engaged in a nuclear weapons program contrary to previous repeated denials of the Iraqi government,″ said State Department spokeswoman Margaret Tutwiler in Washington.
Robert L. Gallucci, deputy chairman of the U.N. Special Commission overseeing elimination of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, declined to say whether Iraq had developed a nuclear bomb. He noted that Iraq admitted enriching uranium, and that enriched uranium could be used to develop a weapon.
According to an Iraqi defector who reportedly has provided information to the U.N. Sanctions Committee, Iraq has about 88 pounds of highly enriched uranium. But Perricos told reporters in Baghdad the list accounted for only a pound of slightly enriched uranium. Another 48 pounds had been reported earlier.
It is believed that about 55 pounds would be necessary to build a nuclear bomb. Perricos said the equipment and material revealed by the Iraqis indicates a program involved in ″pure research.″ Iraqi secrecy about the project suggests otherwise, however.
Perricos said that upon receiving the list Monday morning, part of his 37- person team immediately went to a new site identified on it.
He would not say where that was, but he said that on Tuesday the team would visit another site called Akashat, located about 87 miles south of the previously declared Al Quaim site near the Syrian border.
Perricos said the list revealed two pieces of electromagnetic separation equipment. He said the Iraqis maintain the equipment was what U.N. inspectors stumbled upon on June 28, when in a dramatic confrontation Iraqi troops fired in the air to ward off inspectors following a suspicious truck convoy.
President Bush warned of a military strike after the episode. Soviet U.N. Ambassador Yuli Vorontsov told reporters Friday in New York that the possibility of a military attack had not been discussed during a meeting of the Security Council.
Under the April 3 cease-fire resolution, Iraq promised to cooperate with the United Nations in identifying and destroying all nuclear, chemical or biological weapons material and ballistic missiles with a range greater than about 90 miles.
Iraq told the United Nations after the war that it had only 48 pounds of enriched uranium, which had been regularly inspected by the IAEA. It said allied bombings destroyed 18 of its 24 nuclear facilities.
The additional pound of enriched material revealed Monday was not disclosed, Perricos said.
Neither did the Iraqis reveal the three separate methods they were employing to enrich uranium: electromagnetic separation, the primitive method used to make the first atomic bomb dropped at Hiroshima; centrifuge separation and chemical separation.
Only one other process, a sophisticated technique known as gaseous diffusion, is used to enriched uranium. Enriched uranium can be used either to build nuclear weapons or manufacture nuclear fuel.
″They have indicated that a large part of the equipment on the list has been eliminated and damaged by themselves ... and buried in different burial sites,″ Perricos said. The Iraqis said some was also damaged by allied bombs, he said.
Galluci said the Iraqi document was turned over to the United Nations and to the IAEA on Sunday night.
Iraq has repeatedly been charged with cheating on nuclear site disclosure, particularly when it denied agency inspectors access to sites where intelligence reports indicated there were materials and equipment for the production of enriched uranium.