Nuke Parts Unearthed in Baghdad Backyard

ByABC News
June 26, 2003, 6:55 AM

June 26 -- U.S. intelligence officials have confirmed a former Iraqi scientist's claims that he buried nuclear weapons components in his rose garden in Baghdad.

Hamdi Shukuir Ubaydi told CIA officials that he was ordered to bury a gas centrifuge used to enrich uranium a necessary piece of equipment for developing a nuclear weapon in order to be ready to rebuild Iraq's bomb program.

Ubaydi, who was head of Iraq's pre-1991 centrifuge enrichment program, told U.S. intelligence officials he was acting on orders from Saddam Hussein's government.

As teams of U.S. officials scour the country for evidence of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, U.S. officials uncovered critical parts of Iraqi nuclear technology buried under a rose bush in Ubaydi's garden.

Other items of interest found buried in his garden included:

A 2-foot-tall stack of related documents.

A number of the most-difficult-to-make parts.

Examples and templates which would be used to make a large number of centrifuges. A large number of centrifuges are needed to make nuclear weapons.

Ubaydi said the elements represent a complete set of what would be needed to rebuild a centrifuge uranium enrichment program. He said he was told to bury it in his back yard until inspectors from the United Nations' IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) in Iraq before the Gulf War left.

A Moderate Deal

The former Iraqi scientist, who is believed to have left Iraq, told reporters he has been talking to CIA officials since May and U.S. sources said they believe his statements were credible.

However, a CIA official refused to call the discovery the "smoking gun" that would validate the Bush administration's claims that Iraq had an active program to develop a nuclear weapon.

The agency said it was "a moderate deal." Intelligence officials are less than enthusiastic because all the evidence dated from 1991 or earlier. Most or all of that nuclear program was dismantled after U.N. inspections following the first Persian Gulf War.