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IAEA: Centrifuge parts not evidence of 'smoking gun'

U.N. watchdog: Iraq had no nuclear weapons program after '91

From Caroline McDonald

Iraqi scientist Mahdi Obeidi said he hid the centrifuge parts in his back yard in Baghdad 12 years ago.
Iraqi scientist Mahdi Obeidi said he hid the centrifuge parts in his back yard in Baghdad 12 years ago.

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CNN's Mike Boettcher spoke to the Iraqi scientist who led U.S. officials to the nuclear centrifuge buried in his back yard.
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CNN's David Ensor on a former Iraqi scientist giving the CIA nuclear centrifuge parts and plans buried in his rose garden.
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(CNN) -- The International Atomic Energy Agency said Thursday the parts needed to develop a bomb program that the CIA says were found in Baghdad are not "evidence of a smoking gun" proving Iraq had a current weapons of mass destruction program.

"The findings refer to material and documents of the pre-1991 Iraqi nuclear weapons program that have been well-known to the agency," said spokesman Mark Gwozdecky.

The CIA said it has critical parts of a key piece of Iraqi nuclear technology, parts needed to develop a bomb program that were dug up in a Baghdad back yard. (Full story)

The parts were unearthed by Iraqi scientist Mahdi Obeidi, who said he had hidden them in his back yard under a rosebush 12 years ago under orders from Saddam Hussein's son Qusay and Saddam's then-son-in-law, Hussein Kamel.

The parts and documents Obeidi gave the CIA were shown to CNN at CIA headquarters in Virginia.

Obeidi told CNN that the parts of a gas centrifuge system for enriching uranium were part of a highly sophisticated system that he was ordered to hide, so as to be ready to rebuild the bomb program at some time in the future. (Interactive: How uranium is enriched)

CNN Security Correspondent David Ensor reports that under United Nations sanctions in place in 1991, the concealment of such materials -- and failure to disclose their presence -- would have constituted violations of Security Council regulations.

Gwozdecky, who said the agency has no other information about the development other than press reports, said, "The findings and comments of Obeidi appear to confirm that there has been no post-1991 nuclear weapons program in Iraq and are consistent with our reports to the [U.N.] Security Council.

"Indeed, we have always made it clear that while we have found no evidence of any ongoing nuclear weapons program in Iraq, we are not able to detect small, readily concealable items such as these."

He said the IAEA regularly reported that Iraq had successfully tested a single centrifuge before 1991. (IAEA's report to the U.N.)

"We knew that pre-1991 Iraq had been provided from foreign sources with a large number of original centrifuge drawings; the IAEA has only been provided with a few of these, of little technical significance.

"The recovery of these items does not change our assessment of Iraq's capabilities in the area of centrifuge enrichment. However, it does add greater detail to our understanding," Gwozdecky said.

"Indeed, during the period of recent inspections, we regularly pressed the Iraqis to obtain the remaining centrifuge drawings and other documentation and information about their enrichment program."

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