From pages 122-123 of the Butler Review
493. In early 1999, Iraqi officials visited a number of African countries, including Niger. The visit2 was detected by intelligence, and some details were subsequently confirmed by Iraq. The purpose of the visit was not immediately known. But uranium ore accounts for almost three-quarters of Nigers exports. Putting this together with past Iraqi purchases of uranium ore from Niger, the limitations faced by the Iraq regime on access to indigenous uranium ore and other evidence of Iraq seeking to restart its nuclear programme, the JIC judged that Iraqi purchase of uranium ore could have been the subject of discussions and noted in an assessment in December 2000 that:
. . . unconfirmed intelligence indicates Iraqi interest in acquiring uranium. [JIC, 1 December 2000]
494. There was further and separate intelligence that in 1999 the Iraqi regime had also made inquiries about the purchase of uranium ore in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In this case, there was some evidence that by 2002 an agreement for a sale had been reached.
495. During 2002, the UK received further intelligence from additional sources which identified the purpose of the visit to Niger as having been to negotiate the purchase of uranium ore, though there was disagreement as to whether a sale had been agreed and uranium shipped.
496. This evidence underlay the statement in the Executive Summary of the Governments dossier of September 2002 that: As a result of the intelligence we judge that Iraq has:
. . . - tried covertly to acquire technology and materials which could be used in the production of nuclear weapons;
- sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa,despite having no active civil nuclear power programme that could require it . . . and in Chapter 3 of Part 1 of the Governments dossier that: The main conclusions are that:
. . . - Saddam continues to attach great importance to the possession of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles which he regards as being the basis for Iraqs regional power. He is determined to retain these capabilities; . . .
- Iraq continues to work on developing nuclear weapons,in breach of its obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty and in breach of UNSCR 687. Uranium has been sought from Africa that has no civil nuclear application in Iraq.
Iraqs known holdings of processed uranium are under IAEA supervision. But there is intelligence that Iraq has sought the supply of significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Iraq has no active civil nuclear power programme or nuclear power plants and therefore has no legitimate reason to acquire uranium.
497. In preparing the dossier, the UK consulted the US. The CIA advised caution about any suggestion that Iraq had succeeded in acquiring uranium from Africa, but agreed that there was evidence that it had been sought.
498. The range of evidence described above underlay the relevant passage in the Prime Ministers statement in the House of Commons on 24 September 2002 that:
In addition,we know that Saddam has been trying to buy significant quantities of uranium from Africa,although we do not know whether he has been successful.
499. We conclude that, on the basis of the intelligence assessments at the time, covering both Niger and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the statements on Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from Africa in the Governments dossier, and by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons, were well-founded. By extension, we conclude also that the statement in President Bushs State of the Union Address of 28 January 2003 that:
The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. was well-founded.
500. We also note that, because the intelligence evidence was inconclusive, neither the Governments dossier nor the Prime Minister went on to say that a deal between the Governments of Iraq and Niger for the supply of uranium had been signed, or uranium shipped.
501. We have been told that it was not until early 2003 that the British Government became aware that the US (and other states) had received from a journalistic source a number of documents alleged to cover the Iraqi procurement of uranium from Niger. Those documents were passed to the IAEA, which in its update report to the United Nations Security Council in March 2003 determined that the papers were forgeries: