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New York Post September 7, 2002

IRAQ NUKE SITES UP & ATOM AGAIN

Tuwaitha Nuclear Center, Iraq
Tuwaitha Nuclear
Center, Iraq

By NILES LATHEM

September 7, 2002 -- WASHINGTON - The White House yesterday said new satellite photos of Iraqi nuclear activity are "deeply troubling" and add to what is already a "Mount Everest" of evidence that Saddam wants nukes.

"This is an example of the threat the world faces," said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.

"This is why the president will work with the Congress and the world community to make the very important judgment about where the scale tips between taking action to protect the peace and failing to take action, which can make all of us vulnerable to war."

Fleischer railed at Iraq after U.N. experts studying satellite photos said they have identified new construction at several sites linked in the past to Baghdad's development of nuclear weapons.

"We see changes on the ground. But we don't draw any conclusions," said Mark Gwozdecky of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Vienna-based nuclear-regulatory arm of the United Nations.

"Until you get inspectors on the ground, you cannot tell what the purpose of the construction is," Gwozdecky added.

The inspectors left Iraq in mid-December 1998, hours before a U.S.-British bombing raid, and have not been allowed to return.

Experts are focusing on the Tuwaitha nuclear research center, which for decades has been the epicenter of Saddam Hussein's push to get the bomb.

In June 1981, the Israelis bombed the Osirak nuclear reactor nearby. The entire facility was the target of massive U.S. bombing raids during Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and again in 1998.

But images taken in October 2001 by the commercial satellite company Ikonos reveal that while many structures at Tuwaitha remain damaged or destroyed, a large number of buildings are still intact and clearly in use. The Iraqis have built giant berms to protect against air attacks, and some buildings identified by the Institute of Science and International Security in 1991 as "dedicated clandestine facilities" not only survived the bombing, but have actually been expanded.

"It's not a smoking gun. But there are a lot of buildings long associated with Saddam Hussein's clandestine nuclear-bomb program that are still functional," said John Pike, head of the defense think tank Globalsecurity.org, which is publishing an extensive analysis of the images on its Web site.

"Someone is going to work in these buildings every day, and while we don't know what is happening under the roofs, they can't all be baby milk factories."


Copyright 2002