IAEA: Iraq had no nuclear programme

The United Nations nuclear watchdog stuck by its assessment on Thursday, saying Iraq has not had a nuclear programme since 1991, a day after a former Iraqi scientist handed over old nuclear documents.

The US has prevented UN arms inspectors from returning to Iraq

US officials said on Wednesday that former Iraqi scientist Mahdi Obeidi handed over documents and parts of a gas centrifuge to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) spokesman Mark Gwozdecky said they had no information on the matter other than what was available in US press reports.

“We would agree that this is not evidence of a ‘smoking gun’,” said Gwozdecky, speaking at the IAEA’s headquarters in Vienna.

“The findings and comments of Obeidi appear to confirm that there has been no post-1991 nuclear weapons programme in Iraq and are consistent with our reports to the (United Nations) Security Council,” said the spokesman.

But without access to the findings, the nuclear watchdog said it would be unable to reach any final conclusions.

Centrifuges are used in enriching uranium. Gwozdecky said the IAEA regularly reported that Iraq had tested a single centrifuge before the 1991 Gulf war, adding the organisation had never ruled out that small items could still be found.

He said during inspections before the United States launched war against Iraq on 20 March, the IAEA urged Iraqis to come forward with remaining centrifuge information.

Obeidi and his family have been moved to the United States.