Monday, April 05, 2004

Who Threw The Curveball?
An Iraqi defector nicknamed Curveball who wrongly claimed that Saddam Hussein had mobile chemical weapons factories was last night at the centre of a bitter row between the CIA and Germany's intelligence agency.

German officials said that they had warned American colleagues well before the Iraq war that Curveball's information was not credible - but the warning was ignored.

It was the Iraqi defector's testimony that led the Bush administration to claim that Saddam had built a fleet of trucks and railway wagons to produce anthrax and other deadly germs.

In his presentation to the UN security council in February last year, the US secretary of state, Colin Powell, explicitly used Curveball's now discredited claims as justification for war. The Iraqis were assembling 'mobile production facilities for biological agents', Mr Powell said, adding that his information came from 'a solid source'.

These 'killer caravans' allowed Saddam to produce anthrax 'on demand', it was claimed. US officials never had direct access to the defector, and have subsequently claimed that the Germans misled them.

Yesterday, however, German agents told Die Zeit newspaper that they had warned the Bush administration long before last year that there were 'problems' with Curveball's account. 'We gave a clear credibility assessment. On our side at least, there were no tricks before Colin Powell's presentation,' one source told the newspaper.
Yes, we think Colin Powell is tricksy.


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