U.S. Must Explain Removal of Iraqi Nuclear Equipment, Buildings

NEW YORK, New York, April 16, 2004 (ENS) - The chief of the United Nations nuclear agency has asked the United States for "clarifications" about what has happened to nuclear equipment and "entire buildings" the agency was monitoring before the Iraq war that now appear to have been removed from the country.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei expressed his concern about the missing buildings and equipment in an April 11 letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan that was transmitted to the Security Council and made public on Thursday.


Lawyer and diplomat Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei heads the International Atomic Energy Agency. (Photo courtesy IAEA)
Dr. ElBaradei said he is concerned about "the proliferation risk associated with dual-use material and equipment disappearing to unknown destinations."

A technology is considered to be of dual use when it has current or potential military and civilian applications.

The IAEA director-general said these disappearances may have "a significant impact on the agency’s continuity of knowledge of Iraq’s remaining nuclear-related capabilities."

The IAEA has a mandate to monitor and verify nuclear installations in Iraq and report to the Security Council every six months. Since March 17, 2003, the IAEA has not been in a position to implement its mandate in Iraq due to the war, but Dr. ElBaradei said the agency has been monitoring known nuclear sites by means of commercial satellite imagery.

"The imagery shows that there has been extensive removal of equipment and, in some instances, removal of entire buildings," he wrote in the letter to Annan.


From left: IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and Dr. Hans Blix, former chief weapons inspector in Iraq. January 10, 2003 (Photo courtesy U.S. State Department)
"Other information available to the agency, confirmed through visits to other countries, indicates that large quantities of scrap, some of it contaminated, have been transferred out of Iraq, from sites monitored by IAEA," he wrote.

"It is not clear," he wrote, "whether the removal of those items has been the result of looting activities in the aftermath of the recent war in Iraq, or as part of systematic efforts to rehabilitate some of the locations."

He did not specify the names or locations of the missing buildings and equipment.

Dr. ElBaradei said that the IAEA remains ready to resume its verification activities in Iraq. In the meantime, member states are expected to provide any information relevant to prohibited programs in Iraq or aspects of the IAEA mandate, to enable the Agency to fulfil its responsibilities under Security Council resolutions and under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

The IAEA "expects" that all findings will be shared with the agency "in the near term," Dr. ElBaradei wrote.