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2/10/03 - IRAQ'S NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROGRAM - 2003-02-11

Saddam Hussein "remains determined to acquire nuclear weapons." That was Secretary of State Colin Powell's warning to the United Nations Security Council.

Mr. Powell reminded the Security Council that in 1991, U-N inspectors "searched Iraq's primary nuclear facilities for the first time. And they found nothing to conclude that Iraq had a nuclear weapons program." But in May 1991, an Iraqi defector revealed the truth: "Saddam Hussein had a massive clandestine nuclear weapons program that covered several different techniques to enrich uranium, including electromagnetic isotope separation, gas centrifuge, and gas diffusion."

Iraq's secret nuclear weapons program began years before Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait and subsequent defeat by a U.S.-led coalition. And as Mr. Powell pointed out, "If Saddam had not been stopped, Iraq could have produced a nuclear bomb by 1993."

In 1995, another Iraqi defector revealed that following the invasion of Kuwait the Iraqi dictator stepped up efforts to obtain nuclear weapons. Those efforts continue today. "Saddam Hussein is determined to get his hands on a nuclear bomb," Secretary of State Powell said. In fact, said Mr. Powell, "Saddam Hussein already possesses two out of the three key components needed to build a nuclear bomb. He has a cadre of nuclear scientists with the expertise, and he has a bomb design."

What he has not been able to do -- so far -- is enrich the uranium needed to produce a nuclear explosive. That is why Saddam Hussein has made repeated covert attempts to acquire high-specification aluminum tubes from eleven different countries. The tubes are needed for the centrifuges used to enrich uranium.

Iraq is also secretly attempting to acquire magnets and machines used to balance gas centrifuge rotors, which can be used in the production of nuclear weapons. Iraq's controlled press extols the work of Iraqi nuclear scientists -- who are openly called the "nuclear mujahedeen" [holy warriors]. Mr. Powell pointed out that Saddam Hussein "regularly exhorts them and praises their progress. Progress to what end?"

Secretary of State Powell reminded the U-N Security Council that "long ago. . .this council required Iraq to halt all nuclear activities of any kind." Saddam Hussein refuses to do so. The Security Council's duty is clear.