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Italian Officials Questioned on Iraq Claim

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20051103/ap_on_re_eu/italy_iraq_uranium_2;_ylt=AsMm7R6.LD50q.RI.nkI6i4UewgF;_ylu=X3oDMTA2ZGZwam4yBHNlYwNmYw-- Italian Officials
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 3, 2005
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      http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20051103/ap_on_re_eu/italy_iraq_uranium_2;_ylt=AsMm7R6.LD50q.RI.nkI6i4UewgF;_ylu=X3oDMTA2ZGZwam4yBHNlYwNmYw--

      Italian Officials Questioned on Iraq Claim

      By ARIEL DAVID, Associated Press Writer 22 minutes ago

      ROME - Italian lawmakers questioned Premier Silvio
      Berlusconi's top aide and an intelligence chief
      Thursday about allegations that Italy knowingly gave
      the United States and Britain forged documents
      suggesting Saddam Hussein was seeking uranium in
      Africa.

      Cabinet Undersecretary Gianni Letta and Nicolo
      Pollari, the director of Italy's SISMI intelligence
      agency, were questioned by members of a parliamentary
      commission overseeing secret services.

      The hearing in Rome was not open to the public, but
      commission members were expected to talk to reporters
      later.

      Pollari requested the hearing after the daily
      newspaper La Repubblica said last week that Italy gave
      the United States and Britain documents it knew were
      forged detailing a purported Iraqi deal to buy 500
      tons of uranium concentrate from Niger. The uranium
      ore, known as yellowcake, can be used to produce
      nuclear weapons.

      The United States and Britain used the claim to
      bolster the case for war. The intelligence supporting
      the claim later was deemed unreliable.

      La Repubblica, a strong Berlusconi opponent, has
      alleged that after the Sept. 11 attacks Pollari was
      being pressured by Berlusconi — a strong U.S. ally —
      to make a strong contribution to the hunt for weapons
      of mass destruction in
      Iraq.

      Berlusconi's government has denied any wrongdoing, and
      the premier has personally defended Pollari in the
      face of calls for his resignation.

      Berlusconi, in an interview with the conservative
      daily newspaper Libero published Thursday, said Italy
      had not passed any documents on the Niger affair to
      the United States. He added that La Repubblica's
      allegations were dangerous for Italy because "if they
      were believed, we would be considered the instigator"
      of the Iraq war.

      The Niger claim also is at the center of a CIA leak
      scandal that has shaken the Bush administration,
      leading to last week's indictment of Vice President
      Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby.

      Libby was charged with lying to investigators about
      leaking the identity of covert CIA operative Valerie
      Plame, the wife of Bush administration critic Joseph
      Wilson.

      Wilson accused the administration of covering up his
      inquiry into whether Iraq was trying to obtain uranium
      from Niger after he found the claim had no substance.
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