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Official: CIA chief 'wrong' about Malaysia plant

Production line, not entire facility, has been shuttered

From Chris Plante

In a speech Thursday, CIA Director George Tenet defended prewar intelligence on Iraq.
In a speech Thursday, CIA Director George Tenet defended prewar intelligence on Iraq.

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George Tenet summarizes CIA's prewar intelligence on Iraq.
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- CIA Director George Tenet was wrong when he said this week that Malaysia had closed a plant that made a critical component for Libya's nuclear weapons program, a U.S. official has said.

The senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told CNN on Saturday the factory is still operating.

But he added the "production line" that made centrifuge components, which can be used to enrich uranium, is no longer in operation.

"The initial draft [of the Tenet speech] said 'the production line' has been shut down," the official said.

The phrasing was then changed in "subsequent versions" of the speech until it inaccurately said, "The Malaysian government has closed the facility."

In a rare public address Thursday, Tenet said that the CIA worked with "foreign partners" to intercept a shipment of centrifuges from Malaysia to Libya.

He called that one of the agency's successes in its campaign against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

The speech also incorrectly stated that Malaysian authorities "have shut down one of the network's largest plants," referring to the network that caters to clandestine nuclear weapons development efforts worldwide.

But the official said Scomi Precision Engineering facility was no longer making centrifuge parts, "which is a good thing."

The New York Times reported in Saturday's editions that the factory manager said his plant still could make the sensitive parts if called upon to do so.

The senior official contacted by CNN on Saturday said, "If he did, we'd find out."

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