Is Weapons Case Against Iraq Disintegrating?
Martha Raddatz, Good Morning America, 10 March 2003
March 10 -- As the Bush administration tries to make the case to America and the world that Iraq is trying to rebuild its nuclear weapons program, some top United Nations officials contend that key evidence against Iraq is crumbling.
Before Congress, and in public, President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell have repeatedly pointed to aluminum tubes imported by Iraq which they say are for use in making nuclear weapons.
But on Friday, head United Nations nuclear inspector Mohammad ElBaradei told the Security Council that it wasn't likely that the tubes were for that use. ElBaradei also said that documents Bush had cited and relied upon to make the case that Iraq tried to buy uranium from a country in central Africa were fake.
"These documents -- which formed the basis for the reports of recent uranium transactions between Iraq and Niger -- are in fact not authentic," ElBaradei told the United Nations on Friday.
The International Atomic Energy Agency wasn't blaming either Britain or the United States for the forgery, but the reports of false documentation may not help the case made against Iraq.
"I think the fact that these documents turn out to be false really is an embarrassment to the Bush administration," said Jon Wolfsthal, deputy director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
The documents were first disclosed by British Prime Minister Tony Blair last September -- and referenced by Bush in his State of the Union address in January.
But over the weekend, The Washington Post reported that "the forgers had made relatively crude errors."
The Guardian newspaper in London reported the phony documents were "transparently obvious."
Powell Defends Evidence
On Sunday, Secretary Powell defended some of the evidence against Iraq.
"Well, with respect to the aluminum tubes, we still believe the case is out," Powell told NBC's Meet the Press. "The CIA has done a great deal of analysis on those tubes. They are not persuaded that they're just for rockets."
"With respect to the uranium, it was the information that we had," Powell said. "We provided it. If that information is inaccurate, fine."
Other British evidence has also proven unreliable.
Last month, Tony Blair's government admitted some of the material in a dossier on Iraq had been simply copied from an article published in an academic journal, based mainly on material more than a decade old.
ABCNEWS' Martha Raddatz reported this story for Good Morning America.
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