Sunday, April 09, 2006

Niger forgeries & The Italian Job

The Timesonline's Michael Smith, revealer of all-things-Downing-St-Memoish, has published another blockbuster: 'Forgers' of key Iraq war contract named
TWO employees of the Niger embassy in Rome were responsible for the forgery of a notorious set of documents used to help justify the Iraq war, an official investigation has allegedly found.
According to Nato sources, the investigation has evidence that Niger’s consul and its ambassador’s personal assistant faked a contract to show Saddam Hussein had bought uranium ore from the impoverished west African country.
The documents, which emerged in 2002, were used in a US State Department fact sheet on Iraq’s weapons programme to build the case for war. They were denounced as forgeries by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) shortly before the 2003 invasion.
[...]According to the sources, an official investigation believes Adam Maiga Zakariaou, the consul, and Laura Montini, the ambassador’s assistant, known as La Signora, forged the papers for money.
They allegedly concocted their scheme as reports reached western intelligence agencies, including MI6, that Saddam Hussein had been trying to buy uranium ore, known as yellowcake, from Niger. The agencies had no evidence he had succeeded. The pair are alleged to have copied a real contract to look like an agreement with Iraq under which Niger would supply Saddam with 500 tons of yellowcake.
The story of the fake deal had begun with a meeting in a Rome bar in February 2000 set up by Antonio Nucera, an officer in the Sismi, the Italian intelligence agency, between two of his former agents, Rocco Martino and Montini.
However, unknown to the Sismi, Martino, a former policeman turned spy, had been working for the French intelligence service, the DGSE, since 1996. He was controlled by the DGSE head of station in Brussels, who paid him a retainer of between £1,050 and £1,400 a month.
You can read the rest here. Tip to Rawstory.com for their advanced "headsup". If you're not bothered to read the whole thing, Josh Marshall has a summary at Talkingpointsmemo.com. Also, feel free to visit my October 2005 posts if you would like more quick & dirty background on the CIA leak case & Niger documents or on the Italian connection/neo-con Michael Ledeen & the SISMI intelligence link. Remember: the timing of the release of these 'uranium from Africa' forgeries was crucial! They came out just before the Oct 2002 Senate vote on 'disarming' Saddam.

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