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 Saturday, 18 January, 2003, 20:30 GMT
New Iraqi document find alarms UN
Faleh Hassan outside his home
Mr Hassan studied at Edinburgh University
The head of the United Nations atomic agency has voiced concern about documents apparently relating to nuclear technology which were found in an Iraqi scientist's home.

The documents, numbering 3,000 pages, appear to focus on laser enrichment - a way to modify uranium for use in nuclear weapons - and were taken from the home of physicist Faleh Hassan on Thursday.

Boys protest outside Mr Hassan's house
Local boys protested against the inspections outside Mr Hassan's house

"It is not that we have discovered a smoking gun. I want to be very clear about that. But it raises the whole question of transparency," said Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

"Iraq needs to have a change of heart. Iraq needs to shift gear from passive co-operation to active co-operation to demonstrate through us to the international community that they are clean," he told the BBC's Newshour programme.

Mr ElBaradei said it was too early to tell what the documents were for certain, but he will ask for further details when he and chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix meet Iraqi officials in Baghdad on Sunday.

Scientist's denial

Mr Hassan - one of two scientists whose Baghdad homes were searched on Thursday - categorically denied any link between the documents and Iraq's former nuclear weapons programme.

We would rather live as beggars in our country than live as kings abroad

Faleh Hassan

He accused the "mafia-like" inspectors of using his wife's illness to try to persuade him abroad for questioning about Iraq's nuclear programmes.

The documents are currently being translated from Arabic, and more details will be known in the next few days.

Mr Hassan insists they are part of his private research and from doctoral theses of his students at Baghdad University.

Mr ElBaradei said the documents dated from the 1980s, but said Iraq was not technologically advanced enough at the time to have produced such technology.

"We know they have not gone that far," he said.

Travel offer rejected

Mr Hassan said an American inspector had approached him while his house was being searched and said: "Your wife is sick and we can take her outside Iraq for treatment. You can accompany her."

But Mr Hassan declined the offer, saying he would not leave Iraq for an interview "even if I had instructions from my government to do so".

Faleh Hassan's wife
Faleh Hassan's wife has diabetes and high blood pressure
"We would rather live as beggars in our country than live as kings abroad," he said.

He accused the inspectors of causing psychological damage to his family, and said he spent all Thursday night arguing with the UN team to retain copies of the documents taken from his home.

The search of Mr Hassan's home - and a second house belonging to fellow scientist Shaker al-Jabouri - was the first time inspectors had investigated private residences.

The US has repeatedly pressed the inspection team to take scientists abroad to make them feel safer, believing the intelligence they give could be crucial.

Baghdad has given the inspectors the names of about 500 scientists who worked on its weapons of mass destruction programmes in the past.

Mr Hassan, who studied for his doctorate in Edinburgh, Scotland, and worked for Iraq's atomic energy agency until 1994, is not said to be included in that list.

UK Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon said on Saturday the UN weapons inspectors did not need to find a "smoking gun" revealing Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

He said it could be enough for the inspection teams simply to obtain "persuasive evidence" that Iraq still has nuclear, biological or chemical weapons to warrant military strikes by Britain and the US.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Tabitha Morgan
"Mr ElBaradei stressed it's not clear for certain what the information is"
  Mohamed ElBaradei
"Iraq needs to shift gear from passive co-operation to active co-operation"

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18 Jan 03 | Media reports
18 Jan 03 | Middle East
17 Jan 03 | Middle East
17 Jan 03 | Middle East
16 Jan 03 | Politics
14 Jan 03 | Americas
17 Jan 03 | Politics
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