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Iraq’s Nuclear Program Revealed

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BREAKING NEWS: the UN inspectors discovered something far more damning than a few empty warheads last week—they also unearthed the blueprints for Iraq’s ongoing nuclear weapons program. (Hat tip: Michael J. Totten.)

Thursday evening turned into a wild night at the al-Hyatt hotel in Baghdad, for the 150 or so United Nations weapons inspectors who have made it their home.

Jordanian-imported wine flowed, glasses of whiskey were handed round and, as one witness put it, “the men from the UN with their blue baseball caps and grey faces were suddenly smiling”.

During their two-and-a-half month stay in Iraq, the inspectors have not developed a reputation for holding late-night parties. Almost all are soberly in bed by 11pm, in order to be up the next day at 6.30 for a breakfast of fried eggs, omelettes or bread rolls. But this was a special occasion.

During the day, the United Nations Monitoring Verification and Inspection Commission (Unmovic), had made the first significant find since its arrival in Iraq.

At the Ukhaider weapons depot, 90 miles south-west of Baghdad, inspectors had discovered 12 hidden artillery shells designed to carry chemical weapons. “We finally found something shaped like a weapon and not like a test-tube,” said one inspector.

But while in public the inspectors were celebrating their discovery of the artillery shells, in private experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna were digesting the details of a substantially more significant find - the blueprint of Saddam’s nuclear weapons project.

On the same morning that a team of inspectors had found the 12 artillery shells, another team of nuclear weapons experts had paid a surprise visit to the homes of two of Saddam’s leading nuclear physicists who worked for Iraq’s top secret for the Ministry of Military Industrialisation (MMI).

The ministry, which is run by Saddam’s younger son Qusay, recently replaced the Military Industrialisation Organisation (MIO), the institution which historically has controlled the development of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction arsenal since the mid-1970s.

In their eagerness to get into the scientists’ homes, some of the inspectors had been seen jumping over a garden wall.

Once inside they found what one Western official has described as a “highly significant” batch of documents which, on closer inspection, revealed that Saddam’s scientists were continuing development work on producing an Iraqi nuclear weapon.

Although these documents are this weekend still being examined by IAEA experts to establish the current state of Saddam’s nuclear weapons programme, the discovery could well turn out to be the “smoking gun” that officials in the Bush administration have pinned their hopes on obtaining in order to justify launching military action against Baghdad.

When Saddam submitted his 12,000 page dossier to the United Nations Security Council at the end of last year, the Iraqi leader insisted that Baghdad no longer had any interest in developing nuclear weapons, and that Iraq’s nuclear research programme had been discontinued.

The documents seized at the homes of the two scientists, however, confirm what Western intelligence has been arguing all along, that Saddam is continuing with his quest to develop the first Arab atom bomb.

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