WASHINGTON April 14 —
A scientist described as the father of Iraq's nuclear weapons
program has surrendered in a Middle Eastern country and is being
questioned, U.S. officials said Monday.
Jaffar al-Jaffer is believed to know key people and locations of
facilities connected to Iraq's nuclear weapons program, the
officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
Al-Jaffer fled Iraq for Syria during the war, but then went to
another country and turned himself over to authorities in the last
few days, officials said. The officials declined to specify what
country was holding him.
U.N. inspectors describe the British-educated al-Jaffer as the
father of Iraq's nuclear weapons program.
His capture, along with that of Lt. Gen. Amer al-Saadi, Saddam
Hussein's alleged point man on various weapons' programs, could
provide U.S. officials with a wealth of information on Iraq's
chemical, biological, nuclear and long-range missile efforts.
After the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Iraq denied it had a nuclear
weapons program, but U.N. inspectors determined it was trying to
build an atomic bomb. Former inspectors have said Iraq had all the
parts and know-how and would have gone nuclear had it not been for
the Gulf War.
The United States has insisted that Saddam was rebuilding the
program destroyed by inspectors, and intelligence estimates
suggested Iraq would have a nuclear weapon within the decade,
perhaps within a year if it could acquire weapons-grade plutonium or
But Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy
Agency that led the nuclear weapons inspections in Iraq, said last
month there was no evidence to support the U.S. claims.
Iraqi scientists who defected to Western countries say al-Jaffer
was jailed and tortured until he agreed in the 1980s to head the
program. He eventually became a minister without portfolio in
Iraqi officials accused United States officials of encouraging
al-Jaffer to defect last May during a stopover in Jordan as he was
on his way to U.N. headquarters in New York to meet with weapons
He is the second high-level Iraqi scientist reported in
On Saturday, al-Saadi, Saddam's top science adviser, surrendered
to U.S. authorities in Baghdad.
U.S. intelligence officials said al-Saadi is believed to know
where weapons are hidden, how many were produced and possibly the
whereabouts of other weapons scientists.
Al-Saadi has denied that Iraq possesses prohibited chemical,
biological and nuclear weapons.
Officials said it is too soon to tell whether Jafar and al-Saadi
are providing any useful information.
Associated Press writer Dafna Linzer in New York contributed to
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