- The International Atomic Energy Agency says that a report
cited by President Bush as evidence that Iraq in 1998 was "six months
away" from developing a nuclear weapon does not exist.
- "There's never been a report like that issued from
this agency," Mark Gwozdecky, the IAEA's chief spokesman, said yesterday
in a telephone interview from the agency's headquarters in Vienna, Austria.
- "We've never put a time frame on how long it might
take Iraq to construct a nuclear weapon in 1998," said the spokesman
of the agency charged with assessing Iraq's nuclear capability for the
- In a Sept. 7 news conference with British Prime Minister
Tony Blair, Mr. Bush said: "I would remind you that when the inspectors
first went into Iraq and were denied - finally denied access [in 1998],
a report came out of the Atomic - the IAEA that they were six months away
from developing a weapon.
- "I don't know what more evidence we need,"
said the president, defending his administration's case that Iraqi leader
Saddam Hussein was building weapons of mass destruction.
- The White House says Mr. Bush was referring to an earlier
- "He's referring to 1991 there," said Deputy
Press Secretary Scott McClellan. "In '91, there was a report saying
that after the war they found out they were about six months away."
- Mr. Gwozdecky said no such report was ever issued by
the IAEA in 1991.
- Many news agencies - including The Washington Times -
reported Mr. Bush's Sept. 7 comments as referring to a 1998 IAEA report.
The White House did not ask for a correction from The Times.
- To clear up the confusion, Mr. McClellan cited two news
articles from 1991 - a July 16 story in the London Times by Michael Evans
and a July 18 story in the New York Times by Paul Lewis. But neither article
cites an IAEA report on Iraq's nuclear-weapons program or states that Saddam
was only six months away from "developing a weapon" - as claimed
by Mr. Bush.
- The article by Mr. Evans says: "Jay Davis, an American
expert working for the U.N. special commission charged with removing Iraq's
nuclear capability, said Iraq was only six months away from the large-scale
production of enriched uranium at two plants inspected by UN officials."
- The Lewis article said Iraq in 1991 had a uranium "enrichment
plant using electromagnetic technology [that] was about six months from
- In October 1998, just before Saddam kicked U.N. weapons
inspectors out of Iraq, the IAEA laid out a case opposite of Mr. Bush's
Sept. 7 declaration.
- "There are no indications that there remains in
Iraq any physical capability for the production of weapon-usable nuclear
material of any practical significance," IAEA Director-General Mohammed
Elbaradei wrote in a report to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
- Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair on Sept. 7 cited an agency "report"
declaring that satellite photography revealed the Iraqis had undertaken
new construction at several nuclear-related sites. This week, the IAEA
said no such report existed.
- The IAEA also took issue with a Sept. 9 report by the
International Institute for Strategic Studies - cited by the Bush administration
- that concludes Saddam "could build a nuclear bomb within months
if he were able to obtain fissile material."
- "There is no evidence in our view that can be substantiated
on Iraq's nuclear-weapons program. If anybody tells you they know the nuclear
situation in Iraq right now, in the absence of four years of inspections,
I would say that they're misleading you because there isn't solid evidence
out there," Mr. Gwozdecky said.
- "I don't know where they have determined that Iraq
has retained this much weaponization capability because when we left in
December '98 we had concluded that we had neutralized their nuclear-weapons
program. We had confiscated their fissile material. We had destroyed all
their key buildings and equipment," he said.
- Mr. Gwozdecky said there is no evidence about Saddam's
nuclear capability right now - either through his organization, other agencies
or any government.