Saddam Hussein building new atomic bomb in Iraq

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has asked his scientists to resume their work on building an atomic bomb, an Iraqi dissident told The Sunday Times.

Salman Yassin Zweir, 39, was quoted as saying that the work of the Iraqi scientists had resumed in secret in August 1998, four months before Saddam expelled United Nations inspectors from Iraq.

Zweir, an engineer who was said to have spent 13 years working for the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC), told the weekly that the scientists were based in a research center on Al-Jadriya Street in Baghdad.

Zweir was arrested and tortured by the Iraqi authorities after refusing to work on the project. He finally managed to flee to Jordan where he joined his wife, who had also been tortured, and their two young sons.

“Saddam is very proud of his nuclear team,” Zweir told The Sunday Times. “He will never give up the dream of being the first Arab leader to have a nuclear bomb.”

The dissident was to be debriefed by the U.S. authorities on his revelations, the paper said. And Hans Meyer, a spokesman for the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, said: “We will investigate the evidence.”

Zweir started working at the IAEC in 1985 as a mechanical engineer for US$1,000 a month after signing an agreement stating that he would be executed if he ever left the job or revealed Iraqi nuclear secrets. “As of today, I have broken both conditions,” he said.

Charles Duelfer, former deputy head of UN inspectors in Iraq, said he was “very concerned” after Zweir’s revelations.