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CIA Removes Photos of Uranium Equipment

Espionage Special Report
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Reuters
Tuesday, July 1, 2003; Page A08

The CIA abruptly removed from its Web site photos that showed key uranium-enriching equipment found hidden in Iraq because they revealed secrets that countries seeking to develop nuclear weapons might find helpful, analysts said yesterday.

The CIA on Thursday had posted on its Web site a statement and six photos of centrifuge parts that had been hidden for 12 years under a rosebush in the garden of an Iraqi scientist, Mahdi Shukur Ubaydi.

The spy agency touted the discovery of the parts as an illustration of the difficulty of uncovering evidence of Iraq's alleged programs to develop weapons of mass destruction, the rationale cited by President Bush in going to war.

No biological or chemical weapons have been found, nor any evidence that Baghdad had restarted a nuclear weapons program, leading to charges that Bush and ally Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain exaggerated the threat posed by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

The CIA statement about Shukur Ubaydi, who was head of Iraq's pre-1991 uranium enrichment program and turned over the centrifuge documents and components, remained on its Web site. But the photos had vanished yesterday.

"We just took them down. They were up there for a few days and didn't need to be up any more," CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield said, refusing to comment further.

The photos, which can still be found on other Web sites, showed the centrifuge parts and engineering drawings of a centrifuge, which is used to enrich uranium. Some of the photos showed dimensions, which would be very sensitive material, analysts said.

"These documents would be incredibly useful to countries like Iran, North Korea, India, Pakistan," said David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security and a former weapons inspector.

2003 The Washington Post Company



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