A former official of Niger has denied U-S allegations that the central African nation has a secret deal to supply Iraq with nuclear material.
Niger's former minister of Mining and Energy, Yhaya Barre told VOA that charges from U-S officials that Iraq has approached his country for uranium are -- in his word -- "lies."
He said in an interview that it is the Niger government's practice to check any potential buyers of uranium against the so-called "red list" of the International Atomic Energy Agency -- adding if any nation is on the list, there would be no deal. Mr. Barre said, furthermore, any such deal could not be made without the knowledge of the French-owned company Cogema, which operates uranium mining in Niger.
Mr. Barre was minister in 2000, when U-S officials say Niger signed a new agreement to sell Iraq 500 metric tons of a concentrated form of uranium. He is currently an influential member of the country's ruling party.
In a United Nations report obtained by VOA, U-N officials say Niger made two separate shipments of the concentrated uranium to Iraq in 1981 and 1982. U-S officials say there is no evidence of new uranium shipments since the new 2000 agreement.
The concentrated uranium is known as "yellowcake" -- a colorful, concentrated form of uranium ore used in nuclear programs.
Niger is the world's third-largest uranium producer, after Canada and Australia.