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RINGLEADER
09-04-2004, 06:23 PM
Italy blames France for Niger uranium claim
By Bruce Johnston in Brussels and Kim Willsher in Paris
(Filed: 05/09/2004)

A row has broken out between France and Italy over whose intelligence service is to blame for the Niger uranium controversy, which led to Britain and America claiming wrongly that Saddam Hussein was trying to buy material for nuclear bombs.

Italian diplomats say that France was behind forged documents which at first appeared to prove that Iraq was seeking "yellow-cake" uranium in Niger - evidence used by Britain and America to promote the case for last year's Gulf war.

<B>They say that France's intelligence services used an Italian-born middle-man to circulate a mixture of genuine and bogus documents to "trap" the two leading proponents of war with Saddam into making unsupportable claims.

They have passed to The Sunday Telegraph a photograph which they claim shows the Italian go-between, sometimes known as "Giacomo" - who cannot be identified for legal reasons - meeting a senior French intelligence officer based in Brussels. "The French hoped that the bulk of the documents would be exposed as false, since many of them obviously were," an Italian official said.

"Their aim was to make the allies look ridiculous in order to undermine their case for war."

According to an account given to The Sunday Telegraph, France was driven by "a cold desire to protect their privileged, dominant trading relationship with Saddam, which in the case of war would have been at risk".</B>

The allegation, which has infuriated French officials, follows reports last month that "Giacomo" claimed to have been unwittingly used by Sismi, Italy's foreign intelligence service, to circulate the false documents.

The papers found their way to the CIA and to MI6, and in September 2002 Tony Blair accused Saddam of seeking "significant quantities" of uranium from an undisclosed African country - in fact, Niger. President George W Bush made a similar claim in his State of the Union address to Congress four months later, using information passed to him by MI6.

The International Atomic Energy Agency expressed doubts over the documents' authenticity, however, and in March 2003 declared them false.

The suggestion that Italy, driven by its government's support for America, had forged the documents to help to justify the war in Iraq, has caused a furore and has now led to the revelation of new information about "Giacomo".

The Sunday Telegraph has been told that the man has a criminal record for extortion and fraud, but draws a monthly salary of 4,000 (2,715) from the DGSE - the French equivalent of MI6 - for which he is said to have worked for the past five years.

He had an expense account and received bonuses in return for carrying out orders allegedly given him by the head of the French services' operations in Belgium.

"Giacomo" could not be reached for comment on the claims last week at either his home in Formello, a suburb on the northern edge of Rome, or at his second home in Luxembourg.

He is said to be wanted for questioning over the Niger affair by Italian investigating magistrates, and is believed to be in the United States.

He is said to have received an 18-month prison sentence in 1985 for threatening violence against a bank manager in an extortion attempt. More recently he was apparently reported by Carabinieri for using stationery forged to appear to be from the Italian prime minister's office. He is said to have previously worked for Italian military intelligence, but was "kicked out" for running up debts with illegal loan sharks.

"Giacomo" was allegedly first engaged by the French secret service to investigate genuine fears of illicit trafficking in uranium from Niger. He collected a dossier of documents - some real, some forged by a diplomat - by offering large sums of money to Niger officials.

American intelligence officials were further misled over Saddam's supposed attempt to buy uranium when France - which effectively controls mining in Niger - told Washington that it had reason to believe that Iraq was trying to do so. "Only later did Paris inform Washington that its belief had been based on the same documents that had tricked the Americans and the British," an Italian diplomat said.

"This was la grande trappola [the big trap]. The Americans were now convinced by the French that Saddam really was trying to buy uranium. They thought the French must be right, since not even a gram of uranium in Niger could be shifted without their knowledge."

British officials still say that the claim about Iraqi uranium purchases rested on a second source, not just the now-discredited documents. Intelligence officials from some other Western countries now believe, however, that the second source was also France - part of a "sinister trap" for Mr Blair.

French intelligence was asked by The Sunday Telegraph for a public comment on the allegations against it, but has yet to give one.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2004/09/05/wuran05.xml&sSheet=/news/2004/09/05/ixworld.html

BigOlChiefsfan
09-19-2004, 10:29 AM
more "France lied, people died" (http://news.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2004/09/19/wniger19.xml)

By Bruce Johnston in Rome
(Filed: 19/09/2004)

The Italian businessman at the centre of a furious row between France and Italy over whose intelligence service was to blame for bogus documents suggesting Saddam Hussein was seeking to buy material for nuclear bombs has admitted that he was in the pay of France.

The man, identified by an Italian news agency as Rocco Martino, was the subject of a Telegraph article earlier this month in which he was referred to by his intelligence codename, "Giacomo".

His admission to investigating magistrates in Rome on Friday apparently confirms suggestions that - by commissioning "Giacomo" to procure and circulate documents - France was responsible for some of the information later used by Britain and the United States to promote the case for war with Iraq.

Italian diplomats have claimed that, by disseminating bogus documents stating that Iraq was trying to buy low-grade "yellowcake" uranium from Niger, France was trying to "set up" Britain and America in the hope that when the mistake was revealed it would undermine the case for war, which it wanted to prevent.

Italian judicial officials confirmed yesterday that Mr Martino had previously been sought for questioning by Rome. Investigating magistrates in the city have opened an inquiry into claims he made previously in the international press that Italy's secret services had been behind the dissemination of false documents, to bolster the US case for war.

According to Ansa, the Italian news agency, which said privately that it had obtained its information from "judicial and other sources", Mr Martino was questioned by an investigating magistrate, Franco Ionta, for two hours. Ansa said Mr Martino told the magistrate that Italy's military intelligence, Sismi, had no role in the procuring or dissemination of the Niger documents.

He was also said to have claimed that he had obtained the documents from an employee at the Niger embassy in Rome, before passing these to French intelligence, on whose payroll he had been since at least 2000.

However, he reportedly also added that he had believed that the documents in question were genuine, and to have never suspected that they had been forged. "Martino has clarified his position and offered to deliver to the magistrates the documents which confirm his declarations," his lawyer, Giuseppe Placidi, told Ansa.

It was not possible to contact Mr Martino through his lawyer yesterday. Contacted by The Telegraph, Mr Ionta politely declined to comment, but did not deny that the questioning had taken place. The Interior Ministry in Rome, which had also expressed keen interest in the Telegraph article, refused to comment on the matter.

Mr Martino is said by diplomats to have come forward of his own accord and contacted authorities in the Italian capital following the earlier article in the Telegraph. They said he had written a letter of resignation to the French DGSE intelligence service last week.

According to an Italian newspaper report yesterday, members of the Digos, Italy's anti-terrorist police, removed documents from Mr Martino's home in a northern suburb of Rome on Friday afternoon.

"After being exposed in the international press, French intelligence can hardly be amused or happy with him," one western diplomat said. "Martino may have thought the safest thing was to hand himself over to the Italians." Investigators in Rome suspect that Mr Martino was first engaged by the French secret services five years ago, when he was asked to investigate rumours of illicit trafficking in uranium from Niger. He is thought to have then been retained the following year to collect more information. It was then that he is suspected of having assembled a dossier containing both real and bogus documents from Niger, the latter apparently forged by a diplomat.

In September 2002 Tony Blair accused Saddam of seeking "significant quantities" of uranium from an undisclosed African country - in fact, Niger. US President George W Bush made a similar claim in his State of the Union address to Congress four months later, using information supplied by MI6.

The International Atomic Energy Agency expressed doubts over some of the documents' authenticity, however, and declared them false in March 2003.

In July, the White House withdrew the president's claim, admitting that it was based on inaccurate information. British officials still say that their intelligence about Iraqi uranium purchases was supported by a second, independent source.

Hel'n
09-19-2004, 11:38 AM
Well, I've never liked the French... YOu've given me one more good reason to continue disliking them...

whoman69
09-19-2004, 02:21 PM
If I have to wonder who to trust between France and Italy, I think I'll believe the country that wasn't illegally selling to Saddam before the war started. Their reasons for opposing the war at the UN are becoming more transparent.

Baby Lee
09-19-2004, 02:47 PM
Well, I've never liked the French... YOu've given me one more good reason to continue disliking them...
Truthfully Hel'n, does information such as this have any impact on your view of the arguments that;
1. Bush squandered our good will with our allies.
2. Kerry will reach out to our former allies and woo them to help us in the WoT.

alnorth
09-19-2004, 03:20 PM
1. Bush squandered our good will with our allies.

Well, assuming this story was true, then there was no good will to squander in the first place.