Envoy: Iraq uranium findings ignored

July 6, 2003, 11:51AM
Washington Post

WASHINGTON — Joseph C. Wilson, the retired United States ambassador whose CIA-directed mission to Niger in early 2002 helped debunk claims that Iraq had tried to obtain uranium there for nuclear weapons, has said for the first time publicly that U.S. and British officials ignored his findings and exaggerated the public case for invading Iraq.

Wilson said the false allegations that Iraq was trying to buy uranium oxide from Niger about three years ago were used by President Bush as a central piece of evidence to support their assertions that Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear weapons program.

The Niger story — one piece of the administration’s larger argument that Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction posed an imminent threat — was not debunked until shortly before the war began, when the United Nations’ chief nuclear inspector told the Security Council the documents were forgeries.

The White House has acknowledged that some documents were bogus, but a spokesman has said there was “a larger body of evidence suggesting Iraq attempted to purchase uranium in Africa,” indicating it might have involved a country other than Niger.

For the past year, Wilson has spoken out against the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq but until he was interviewed by the Washington Post and wrote an op-ed article published in Sunday’s New York Times, he had never disclosed his key role in the Niger controversy.

He said Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was not an immediate threat before the war.

 

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