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Italian journalist claims she supplied Iraq-Niger uranium documents to US

Saturday, 19-Jul-2003 1:20PM PDT
Story from AFP
Copyright 2003 by Agence France-Presse (via ClariNet)

ROME, July 19 (AFP) - An Italian journalist on Saturday claimed that she -- and not Italy's secret services -- had supplied US diplomats in Rome with forged documents indicating that Iraq sought to procure uranium from Niger.

Elisabetta Burba, a political journalist for Italian news magazine Panorama, told Il Corriere della Sera newspaper that she had obtained the documents in October 2002 through a "previously reliable source".

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After travelling to Niger to investigate the matter, however, she rejected the documents as fakes and delivered them to the US embassy in Rome.

"I went alone and handed them the file. No one ever mentioned it to me again and, in any case, we had already decided not to run the story," Burba told the newspaper.

She flatly denied that Italy's military intelligence service, the SISMI, had played part in supplying the documents to Washington.

"I can say that my source was not an agent of the military intelligence service, even if I cannot give his name," she said.

"I never had any contact with them, no one ever approached me. As far as I am concerned, I can guarantee that the SISMI had nothing to do with this."

Burba is due to tell her full story in the upcoming issue of Panorama, which belongs to the media empire owned by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

A senior US State Department official said on Thursday that a private source had given the US embassy in Rome the now-discredited documents, which have provoked an international row.

In particular, Italy's secret services have come under scrutiny, after they were widely reported to have been the source of the fake documents -- a charge Italy has strongly denied.

The forged documents, which the Italian newspaper La Repubblica has now published, were subsequently used to bolster the case for war against Iraq.

There is considerable doubt in London and Washington over the strength of the US and British intelligence case for ending UN arms inspections and launching the March 20 invasion to topple Saddam as Iraqi president.



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This article is Copyright 2003 by Agence France-Presse.

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