Saddam's foreign minister was CIA source - NBC
WASHINGTON, Mar 21 (Reuters) In the period before the Iraq war, Saddam Hussein's foreign minister Naji Sabri, was a secret paid source of the CIA, ''NBC Nightly News'' report said.
Citing unnamed current and former U.S. intelligence officials, NBC yesterday said Sabri provided details of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction that turned out to be more accurate than CIA estimates.
Intelligence sources said Sabri was paid more than 100,000 dollars through an intermediary in a Sept. 2002 deal brokered by the French, NBC reported.
Sabri may have thought he was working with the French, but some U.S. intelligence officials believe he knew it was the CIA, NBC said.
The CIA questioned Sabri through a go-between about Saddam's WMD program, the report said.
According to the intelligence sources, Sabri indicated that Saddam had no significant weapons programme and that while the deposed Iraqi leader desperately wanted a nuclear bomb it would have taken more time for him to build one than the CIA's several-months-to-a-year estimate, NBC reported.
Both the CIA and Sabri said Saddam had stockpiled chemical weapons, but both were wrong, NBC said.
WMD were the main justification for President George W. Bush's decision to invade Iraq three years ago, but no such weapons have been found.
Citing intelligence sources, NBC said the CIA's brief relations with Sabri ended after he refused to defect to the United States.
The agency had been hoping for a public relations coup, the network said.
Sabri was not named among the former senior Iraqi officials on the U.S. most-wanted list of 55 Iraqi fugitives.
NBC said it found Sabri teaching at a university in the West Asia, but was not revealing his location for security reasons.
Sabri declined to be interviewed or to comment as did the CIA, NBC said, adding that the agency also would not say why it did not listen to Sabri's warnings.
A CIA representative had no comment on the report.
Reuters VJ DB0742