ROME — Italy's spy chief denied Thursday that Italian intelligence had a hand in distributing a dossier that claimed Iraq's then-president, Saddam Hussein, tried to buy uranium in Niger, lawmakers here said.
Enzo Bianco, chairman of an oversight committee on secret services, said that the intelligence chief, Nicolo Pollari, and Gianni Letta, an aide to Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, briefed lawmakers after a newspaper reported that Italy had passed the dossier to Britain and the U.S., knowing it was a fake.
Bianco said the officials denied that SISMI, Italy's secret service, "ever had a role in the dossier that was supposed to have demonstrated that Iraq was in an advanced phase of possession of enriched uranium."
The U.S. and Britain used the claim that Hussein was seeking uranium in Africa to bolster their case for the war. The intelligence supporting the claim was later deemed unreliable.
Commission member Sen. Massimo Brutti said the panel was told that a SISMI official, contacted by the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, told the U.N. agency that "those documents didn't come from SISMI, they weren't produced nor supplied by SISMI."
President Bush included the allegation about Iraq seeking the uranium in his January 2003 State of the Union address, accusing Iraq of pursuing banned weapons of mass destruction.
SISMI chief Pollari had requested the hearing after the Rome newspaper La Repubblica alleged last week that Italy had given the U.S. and Britain documents that it knew were forged detailing a purported Iraqi attempt to buy 500 tons of uranium concentrate from Niger.
The uranium, known as yellowcake, can be used to make nuclear weapons.