Bush misstated report on Iraq

Bob Rogers brogers at cet.com
Mon Sep 9 09:16:13 MDT 2002


White House: Bush misstated report on Iraq
MSNBC; September 7, 2002
http://www.msnbc.com/news/802167.asp#BODY

Sept. 7 -  Seeking to build a case Saturday that Iraqi President Saddam
Hussein was developing weapons of mass destruction, President Bush cited a
satellite photograph and a report by the U.N. atomic energy agency as
evidence of Iraq's impending rearmament. But in response to a report by NBC
News, a senior administration official acknowledged Saturday night that the
U.N. report drew no such conclusion, and a spokesman for the U.N. agency
said the photograph had been misinterpreted.


BUSH AND BRITISH Prime Minister Tony Blair talked to reporters before
opening about three hours of talks at Camp David, Bush's presidential
retreat in Maryland.

Blair cited a newly released satellite photo of Iraq identifying new
construction at several sites linked in the past to Baghdad's development
of nuclear weapons. And both leaders mentioned a 1998 report by the
U.N.-affiliated International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, that said
Saddam could be six months away from developing nuclear weapons.

"I don't know what more evidence we need," Bush said as he greeted Blair
for a brainstorming session on Iraq. "We owe it to future generations to
deal with this problem."

In a joint appearance before the summit, the two leaders repeated their
shared view that Saddam's ouster was the only way to stop Iraq's pursuit -
and potential use - of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

"The policy of inaction is not a policy we can responsibly subscribe to,"
Blair said as he joined Bush in trying to rally reluctant allies to deal
with Saddam, perhaps by military force.

IAEA: NUCLEAR ABILITY DESTROYED

Contrary to Bush's claim, however, the 1998 IAEA report did not say that
Iraq was six months away from developing nuclear capability, NBC News'
Robert Windrem reported Saturday.

Instead, Windrem reported, the Vienna, Austria-based agency said in 1998
that Iraq had been six to 24 months away from such capability before the
1991 Persian Gulf War and the U.N.-monitored weapons inspections that
followed.

The war and the inspections destroyed much of Iraq's nuclear infrastructure
and required Iraq to turn over its highly enriched uranium and plutonium,
Windrem reported.

In a summary of its 1998 report, the IAEA said that "based on all credible
information available to date ... the IAEA has found no indication of Iraq
having achieved its programme goal of producing nuclear weapons or of Iraq
having retained a physical capability for the production of weapon-useable
nuclear material or having clandestinely obtained such material."

WHITE HOUSE ADMITS ERROR

A senior White House official acknowledged Saturday night that the 1998
report did not say what Bush claimed. "What happened was, we formed our own
conclusions based on the report," the official told NBC News' Norah
O'Donnell.

Meanwhile, Mark Gwozdecky, a spokesman for the U.N. agency, disputed Bush's
and Blair's assessment of the satellite photograph, which was first
publicized Friday. Contrary to news service reports, there was no specific
photo or building that aroused suspicions, he told Windrem.

The photograph in question was not U.N. intelligence imaging but simply a
picture from a commercial satellite imaging company, Gwozdecky said. He
said that the IAEA reviewed commercial satellite imagery regularly and
that, from time to time, it noticed construction at sites it had previously
examined.

Gwozdecky said the new construction indicated in the photograph was no
surprise and that no conclusions were drawn from it. "There is not a single
building we see," he said.

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