Aug. 10, 2004 – Safeguards investigators from the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) completed their annual Physical Inventory Verification of low-enriched uranium in Iraq, stored since 1991 at the Tuwaitha Nuclear Facility. Aside from nuclear material secretly transferred to the United States by US authorities in June and the 10 kg of low-enriched uranium the IAEA was unable to recover in 2003, inspectors verified that no nuclear material was missing.
IAEA inspection activities have been disrupted twice since they began in1991, following the first Gulf War. Inspectors were pulled out just before US and UK forces launched military strikes against Iraq at the end of 1998 and again in the dawn of the March 2003 invasion. After the latter event, the US banned the Agency from Iraq until June 2003 when inspectors were asked to return briefly to recover materials looted from Tuwaitha, south of Baghdad. The IAEA says lost material was "minute" and unsuited for weapons proliferation, though human rights groups have reported a severe health impact on the surrounding population.
The safeguards inspections team returned two weeks ago at the behest of the Iraqâ€™s interim government.
In an IAEA statement, Agency Director General Mohamed ElBaradei made it clear that he considered the safeguards inspectorsâ€™ brief visit just the beginning of IAEAâ€™s return to Iraq. "Now we hope to be in a position to complete the [nuclear weapons inspections] mandate entrusted to us by the Security Council, to enable the Council over time to remove all sanctions and restrictions imposed on Iraq -- that Iraqâ€™s rights as a full-fledged member of the international community can be restored," stated ElBaradei.