Powell's information on Iranian missiles based on single source: report
WASHINGTON (AFP) Nov 19, 2004
Outgoing US Secretary of State Colin Powell's announcement earlier this week that Iran could be developing nuclear-capable missiles was based on an "unvetted, single source," The Washington Post said Friday.
The intelligence, which two US officials said had not been verified, could be significant if true but an embarrassment if not, reminiscent of Powell's February 2003 UN speech about Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction, which was based on dubious intelligence and which so far has proved untrue.
The officials told the daily the intelligence was stamped "No Foreign," meaning it was not to be shared even with US allies, although they said US President George W. Bush shared portions of it with British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, last week.
Powell, in Santiago for an APEC summit this weekend, said Wednesday that he had "seen some information that would suggest" that Iran was seeking to adapt its missiles to carry nuclear warheads -- they have "been actively working on delivery systems," he said.
The information in Powell's comment was drawn from a "walk-in" source, who provided US intelligence with 1,000 pages of alleged Iranian drawings and technical documents, including modifications to ballistic missiles to carry nuclear weapons, one official with access to the material told the daily.
The officials, who asked not to be identified but agreed to talk with the daily about information already disclosed by Powell, said the source was not previously known to US intelligence.
They said the Central Intelligence Agency remained unsure about the authenticity of the documents and how they came into the informant's posession.
The officials did not know the identity of the source or whether he was connected to an Iranian exile group which made new accusations about Iran's alleged nuclear weapons ambitions in Paris on Wednesday.
They said the lack of certainty about the source had kept them from talking publicly about the information and that Powell's comments had caught them by surprise and even angered some of them.
Powell, who is to succeeded by national security adviser Condoleezza Rice during Bush's second term in office, has been described by some newspapers as the moderate, "odd man out" in a hawkish Bush administration and has often been in hot water for his comments.
The New York Times quoted other unidentified sources as saying that the US government, to assuage concerns over Iran, told some European diplomats that Powell had misspoken in releasing information that had not been verified.
Iran on Sunday agreed with the European Union's three biggest powers -- Britain, France and Germany -- to freeze uranium enrichment-related activities to ease fears its fuel cycle work could be diverted to make an atomic bomb.
The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN atomic watchdog, announced Monday that Iran had pledged to suspend activities related to uranium enrichment by November 22 pending a longer-term accord based on EU incentives.All rights reserved. © 2005 Agence France-Presse. Sections of the information displayed on this page (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence, you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the content of this section without the prior written consent of Agence France-Presse.