Iraq's nuclear sites are raided for scrap

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The Independent Online

Concern is growing that a demand for scrap metal fromwar-damaged Iraq is emptying the country of reusable goods and equipment such as water-plant components, sections of buildings, and materials linked to former weapons programmes.

Concern is growing that a demand for scrap metal fromwar-damaged Iraq is emptying the country of reusable goods and equipment such as water-plant components, sections of buildings, and materials linked to former weapons programmes.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna has warned that satellite surveillance has shown entire structures at hundreds of military industrial sites being dismantled in recent months. "We see sites that have totally been cleaned out," said Jacques Baute, the director of the agency's Iraq nuclear verification department.

The IAEA first became concerned in December last year when a steel vessel contaminated with uranium from Iraq arrived at a Rotterdam scrap yard. It had allegedly been taken out of Iraq by a scrap merchant based in Jordan.

The New York Times reported yesterday that about 100 lorries are crossing into Jordan from Iraq every day laden with materials looted from the country.

John Hamre, the head of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, a think-tank based in Washington, said: "There is a giant salvage operation, stripping anything of perceived value."

As Western countries, notably the United States, prepare to rebuild the country, they will not welcome evidence that so much material is being removed from Iraq by traders in neighbouring countries.

Mr Hamre said: "This is systematically plundering the country. You're going to have to replace all this stuff."

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