by The Telegraph (London) –
(29 Jul 2003) — The Prime Minister of Niger has challenged Tony Blair to produce the evidence that he claims proves Saddam Hussain sought to buy uranium from the impoverished African country.
In his first interview since the row erupted over Britain and America’s alleged distortion of the “”case for war” in Iraq, Hama Hamadou accused London and Washington of mistreating an ally, given that Niger sent 500 troops to fight against Saddam in the 1991 Gulf War.
“We did not expect to be caught up in all this. Is this how Britain and America treat their allies?” asked Hamadou. “If the British Government has evidence to support its claim about Niger’s uranium then it has only to produce it for everybody to see. Our conscience is clear. We are innocent.”
America has admitted that its original claim that Saddam sought to buy uranium from Niger as part of his nuclear weapons program was based on forged intelligence documents.
Britain, however, insists that it has intelligence from “independent sources” to support it. [Hamadou] said Niger did not have, and had never had, diplomatic or any bilateral relations with Iraq.
“Officials from the two countries have never met to discuss uranium,” he said. The only contact between the countries was at the Organization of the Islamic Conference. “We attend the conference because we are a Muslim country,” Hamadou said.
“But we have certainly not discussed uranium during any of our contacts with people from Iraq. We were the first African country to send soldiers to fight against Saddam after the invasion of Kuwait in 1991,” he added.
“Would we really send material to somebody whom we had fought against and who could destroy half the world with a nuclear bomb? It is unthinkable.”