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Iraq Transition

Hussein minister allegedly sold weapons intelligence to West

From David Ensor
CNN

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Sources say Naji Sabri, seen in this 2002 photo, gave information on Iraqi weapons to French intelligence.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- One of Saddam Hussein's top aides told Western intelligence agencies before the 2003 invasion that Iraq had no active weapons programs, but that the nation was stockpiling chemical weapons, sources said Tuesday.

Naji Sabri said Iraq had no real nuclear programs and no active biological weapons programs, the sources said, but he said Iraq was stockpiling chemical weapons, including poison gas from the Iran-Iraq War.

The latter assertions proved false.

Sabri was Iraq's foreign minister at the time, and the sources said that he was paid $100,000 through a third party to pass the information on to French intelligence, which shared it with the CIA.

Concerns have been raised that the story, first reported Monday on NBC News, may jeopardize the safety of Sabri and his family, who now live somewhere in the Middle East.

But NBC issued a statement Tuesday, saying it had already addressed that concern and "the piece purposefully did not mention where he is living, to protect his security."

Sabri has declined NBC requests for an interview, and CNN's attempts to contact him were unsuccessful. The CIA and State Department would not comment on the report.

There have long been questions as to why Sabri was not included in the Pentagon-issued deck of cards that showed the most-wanted members of Hussein's government after its collapse.

In a 2004 speech, former CIA Director George Tenet referred to a top source close to Saddam Hussein. Other former officials suggest that person was Sabri.

The United States invaded Iraq after the Bush administration repeatedly accused the nation of stockpiling long-range missiles as well as chemical and biological weapons, which would have constituted violations of U.N. resolutions. At one point, the White House also said Iraq was operating a clandestine nuclear weapons program.

However, after the invasion, a U.S.-led survey and inspections conducted by the United Nations found no indication that any of those weapons existed. U.S. inspectors concluded that Iraq had concealed some weapons-related research.

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