French spies warned US off Niger-uranium link

12th December 2005, Comments 0 comments

LOS ANGELES, Dec 11 (AFP) - France's spy service tried for months to warn the CIA that there was no evidence to support a US allegation that Iraq had tried to purchase nuclear weapons material in Africa, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday, quoting a French former intelligence official.

LOS ANGELES, Dec 11 (AFP) - France's spy service tried for months to warn the CIA that there was no evidence to support a US allegation that Iraq had tried to purchase nuclear weapons material in Africa, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday, quoting a French former intelligence official.

For more than a year before US President George W. Bush declared in his 2003 State of the Union speech that Iraq had tried to buy nuclear weapons material in Niger, France, in previously undisclosed, secret exchanges beginning in 2001, repeatedly warned that the charges were bogus, according to its retired chief of counter-intelligence Alain Chouet.

The French conclusions were reached after extensive on-the-ground investigations in Niger and other former French colonies, where the uranium mines are controlled by French companies, said Chouet, former head of France's Direction Générale de la Sécurite Exterieure, who told the Times that Paris had investigated the claims at the CIA's request.

The CIA sought France's help in 2001 and 2002 because French firms dominate the uranium business internationally and former French colonies lead the world in production of the strategic mineral.

France was particularly sensitive to the assertion about Iraq trying to obtain nuclear materials given the role that French companies play in uranium mining in France's former colonies, the daily wrote.

"In France, we've always been very careful about both problems of uranium production in Niger and Iraqi attempts to get uranium from Africa," Chouet told the newspaper.

"After the first Gulf War, we were very cautious with that problem, as the French government didn't care to be accused of maintaining relations with (Iraqi President) Saddam (Hussein) in that field."

A US official contacted by the newspaper said that Chouet's revelation was "at odds with our understanding of the issue."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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