UN watchdog concerned by disappearance of nuclear material from Iraq

Dr. ElBaradei

12 October 2004 – Satellite images show equipment and materials that could be used to make nuclear weapons have disappeared from Iraq, the United Nations atomic watchdog agency has warned, and it has called on countries to provide information concerning their whereabouts.

Entire buildings once monitored and tagged by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have been dismantled, and equipment and materials in open storage areas have been removed, the Agency’s Director-General, Mohamed ElBaradei, wrote in a letter to the Security Council.

“The IAEA continues to be concerned about the widespread and apparently systematic dismantlement that has taken place at sites previously relevant to Iraq’s nuclear programme and sites previously subject to ongoing monitoring and verification” by the Agency, he said.

Since 1991 the IAEA has been required by Security Council resolutions to submit progress reports every six months on its inspections of Iraq’s nuclear weapons programme. However, the Agency pulled out of the country on the eve of the war last year, and since then has been concentrating on analyzing information collected since it began those checks. In August, the Agency did complete a separate, physical inspection of nuclear safeguards under the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Mr. ElBaradei said through visits to other countries, the IAEA had been able to identify quantities of industrial items, some radioactively contaminated, that had been transferred out of Iraq from sites monitored by the Agency. “However, none of the high-quality dual-use equipment or materials referred to above has been found,” he added.

“As the disappearance of such equipment and materials may be of proliferation significance, any State that has information about the location of such items should provide the IAEA with that information,” he said.

Mr. ElBaradei also said the IAEA is considering requests by Iraq for help with the sale of leftover nuclear material at its Tuwaitha facility, except for a small batch for research purposes; the dismantlement and decontamination of former nuclear facilities; and the resumption of IAEA assistance under a number of technical cooperation projects that had been suspended since December 1998.

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