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Substance Wasn't Uranium

October 01, 2002|From Associated Press

ANKARA, Turkey — Atomic energy officials said Monday that a substance seized by police near the Syrian border was not weapons-grade uranium as Turkish authorities first reported, according to the state-run Anatolian news agency.

Atomic Energy Institute chief Guler Koksal said the material was harmless, containing zinc, iron, zirconium and manganese.

The announcement ended days of speculation that the substance might have been destined for neighboring Iraq, which the United States accuses of trying to smuggle in nuclear material for a secret weapons program.

Police, acting on a tip, recovered the material in a taxi last week near the Syrian border. Two Turks who were trying to sell the material as uranium were released from custody.

The seizure alarmed intelligence agencies around the world when the Turkish police at first said it weighed 33 pounds. On Sunday, police said the material weighed only 5 ounces. The disparity occurred because authorities initially included the weight of the lead container.

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