Thursday, January 09, 2003

Can we fire her yet?

The tubes, Rice said, "are only really suited for nuclear weapons programs, centrifuge programs."

--Condi Rice, 9/2002

In a blow to U.S. hopes that inspectors would uncover a "smoking gun" showing Iraq was trying to make nuclear arms in violation of council resolutions, ElBaradei said aluminum tubes suspected of being sought by Iraq to enrich uranium for weapons were actually intended for a rocket engine program, as Iraq had claimed all along.

Centrifuges that rely on specially milled aluminum tubes are crucial to the process of separating weapons-grade nuclear material from non-enriched uranium. But the tubes sought by Iraq were not suited for this purpose, he said in a closed-door council session.

"While it would be possible to modify such tubes for the manufacture of centrifuges, they are not directly suitable for it," ElBaradei told the council, according to his speaking notes, obtained by Reuters.