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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 July, 2004, 12:42 GMT 13:42 UK
Ex-Niger premier denies Iraq link
Niger nomads
Niger's main export is uranium
Niger's former prime minister has said that Iraq did not try to buy uranium, contradicting claims made in the build-up to the invasion of Iraq.

Ibrahim Mayaki told the BBC that no Iraqi delegation went to Niger while he was foreign minister or prime minister.

An official report into UK intelligence supported the claims that Iraq had sought to buy uranium from Niger.

Although some documents backing up this claim were shown to be forgeries, the UK has not withdrawn the charge.

Last week's US Senate report on the intelligence leading up to the Iraq invasion said that Saddam Hussein's government may have tried to buy uranium from Africa.

Following the discovery of the forgeries, President George W Bush withdrew the charges.

'Easily verified'

Mr Mayaki denies allegations in the Senate report that he admitted meeting a delegation from Iraq in 1999.

The report says that he expected to discuss uranium with the Iraqi delegation but managed to steer the conversation in another direction.

But Mr Mayaki now says he has no recollection of such a meeting, while he was in government from 1999-2001.

"I think this could be easily verified by the Western intelligence services and by the authorities in Niger," he said.

Claims that an African country had supplied Iraq with uranium were first made in a dossier compiled by the British intelligence services on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, made public in September 2002.

The chair of the UK enquiry into the quality of British intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction said this information had come from several sources.

The forged documents were not available to the British government when it was making its case for the war and so did not undermine its conclusion, Lord Butler said.

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