The International Atomic Energy Agency says that a report cited by President Bush as evidence that Iraq in 1998 was "six months away" from developing a nuclear weapon does not exist.
"There's never been a report like that issued from this agency," Mark Gwozdecky, the IAEA's chief spokesman, said yesterday in a telephone interview from the agency's headquarters in Vienna, Austria.
"We've never put a time frame on how long it might take Iraq to construct a nuclear weapon in 1998," said the spokesman of the agency charged with assessing Iraq's nuclear capability for the United Nations.
In a Sept. 7 news conference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Mr. Bush said: "I would remind you that when the inspectors first went into Iraq and were denied — finally denied access [in 1998], a report came out of the Atomic — the IAEA that they were six months away from developing a weapon.
"I don't know what more evidence we need," said the president, defending his administration's case that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was building weapons of mass destruction.
The White House says Mr. Bush was referring to an earlier IAEA report.
"He's referring to 1991 there," said Deputy Press Secretary Scott McClellan. "In '91, there was a report saying that after the war they found out they were about six months away."
Mr. Gwozdecky said no such report was ever issued by the IAEA in 1991.
Many news agencies — including The Washington Times — reported Mr. Bush's Sept. 7 comments as referring to a 1998 IAEA report. The White House did not ask for a correction from The Times.
what the hell.