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French Perfidy Watch

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The Italian businessman who produced forged documents about Saddam’s plans to buy uranium from Niger was working for France: Agent behind fake uranium documents worked for France.

The Italian businessman at the centre of a furious row between France and Italy over whose intelligence service was to blame for bogus documents suggesting Saddam Hussein was seeking to buy material for nuclear bombs has admitted that he was in the pay of France.

The man, identified by an Italian news agency as Rocco Martino, was the subject of a Telegraph article earlier this month in which he was referred to by his intelligence codename, “Giacomo”.

His admission to investigating magistrates in Rome on Friday apparently confirms suggestions that - by commissioning “Giacomo” to procure and circulate documents - France was responsible for some of the information later used by Britain and the United States to promote the case for war with Iraq.

Italian diplomats have claimed that, by disseminating bogus documents stating that Iraq was trying to buy low-grade “yellowcake” uranium from Niger, France was trying to “set up” Britain and America in the hope that when the mistake was revealed it would undermine the case for war, which it wanted to prevent.

Italian judicial officials confirmed yesterday that Mr Martino had previously been sought for questioning by Rome. Investigating magistrates in the city have opened an inquiry into claims he made previously in the international press that Italy’s secret services had been behind the dissemination of false documents, to bolster the US case for war.

According to Ansa, the Italian news agency, which said privately that it had obtained its information from “judicial and other sources”, Mr Martino was questioned by an investigating magistrate, Franco Ionta, for two hours. Ansa said Mr Martino told the magistrate that Italy’s military intelligence, Sismi, had no role in the procuring or dissemination of the Niger documents.

He was also said to have claimed that he had obtained the documents from an employee at the Niger embassy in Rome, before passing these to French intelligence, on whose payroll he had been since at least 2000.

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