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. Gates asks for outside probe into nuke transfer: Pentagon

by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Sept 20, 2007
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates has asked a former air force chief of staff to conduct an independent investigation into the unauthorized transfer of nuclear weapons aboard a B-52 bomber last month, his spokesman said Thursday.

The assessment by retired general Larry Welch is in addition to an ongoing investigation that the air force is conducting with assistance from the Defense Department's inspector general, said Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary.

"I don't want to leave the impression at all that he is dissatisfied with how the air force has handled this," Morrell told reporters.

"But I think he believes that (in) an incident of this nature, it's important to get to the bottom of it, and an outside set of eyes may be additionally helpful to find out what went wrong and avoid similar mistakes in the future," he said.

Defense officials have said that at least six nuclear armed cruise missiles were mistakenly flown from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota to Barksdale Air Force Base on August 30 under the wings of a B-52 bombers.

The munitions squadron commander at Minot was relieved of his duties after the transfer was discovered, and other airmen were decertified from duties involving munitions.

But the Pentagon has not explained what happened, or even officially confirmed that nuclear weapons were involved.

Morrell, who referred to it only as the "munitions transfer incident," said Gates has received regular updates on the air force investigation. But he would not say what caused the security breach.

Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne last week visited the bases involved in the incident, Morrell said.

"I think one of those visits had been planned beforehand but he went to see for himself how things are going out there," he said.

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NKorea bought materials used to build centrifuges: report
Tokyo (AFP) Sept 17, 2007
North Korea has told the United States that it procured aluminum pipes, which can be used to build uranium-enriching centrifuges, from a third country, a report said Monday.

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