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Niger embassy forged documents used as basis for Iraq war, paper asserts

RAW STORY
Published: Saturday April 8, 2006

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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 allegedly found, The London Sunday Times' Mick Smith will report in Sunday papers, RAW STORY has learned.

RAW STORY received an exclusive advance of the story. Excerpts follow.

FULL STORY NOW AVAILABLE HERE.

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According to NATO sources who spoke to the SUNDAY TIMES, 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 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 SUNDAY TIMES' sources, an official investigation believes Niger's Adam Maiga Zakariaou, the consul, and Laura Montini, the ambassador's personal assistant, known as La Signora, forged the papers for money.

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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 1,050-1,400 a month.

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The French, who were watching for an attempt by Saddam to obtain uranium from Niger, showed great interest and told Martino they wanted more information. Martino asked Montini if she could get a copy of a contract for Niger to supply Iraq with uranium.

"Martino told me that if he was able to obtain a copy of a contract then he would have earned a lot of money from an unspecified 'intelligence' organisation," she told the magistrate.

The lure of the money was apparently too much, the SUNDAY TIMES reveals.

"She was [the ambassador's] trusted personal assistant. The consul Zakariaou . . . needed money. He would help her forge the documents," the Nato sources said.

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FULL ARTICLE NOW ONLINE AT THIS LINK

Last October, the Italian daily La Repubblica reported that then-Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley discussed the documents in a secret meeting with the chief of Italy's military intelligence service after the CIA had already repeatedly rejected them. Laura Rozen covered this at American Prospect Online.

(Mick Smith, the British journalist who also broke the Downing Street Memos story, has a blog at Times Online at this link.)