London's claim that Saddam Hussein tried to obtain uranium from the African state of Niger has been challenged by a western diplomat close to the UN atomic energy agency, the Daily Mail reported. The British newspaper Tuesday quoted the diplomat close to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna as saying that all intelligence on such a supposed deal was based on forged documents.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, speaking on BBC radio, on Monday stood by his government's claim, which was contained in a controversial 50-page government dossier on Saddam's pursuit of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons issued last September.
Straw added, however, that Britain was not at liberty to tell the United States where it got the information, because it had come from "foreign intelligence sources". France and Italy both issued swift denials that their intelligence services were the origins of the contested claim about Niger.
US President George W. Bush, in his State of the Union address last January when he made his case for war on Iraq, included the reference to Niger, attributing it to British intelligence.
But last Saturday, CIA director George Tenet cast doubt on the accuracy of the claim, saying it should never have been included in Bush's speech.
The UN diplomat cited by the Daily Mail said that the evidence of a uranium deal which Britain was standing by in fact referred to the same alleged transaction described in documents already found to have been fake. "I understand that it concerned the same group of documents and the same transaction," the paper quoted the diplomat as saying. (Albawaba.com)
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