WASHINGTON -- The Central Intelligence Agency has acknowledged in a classified report that the agency had strong evidence about Iraq's worldwide effort to buy nuclear-weapons technology a month before President Bush signed an order mandating closer ties to Baghdad in the fall of 1989, according to sources.
The disclosure was contained in a report provided by the CIA to the Senate Intelligence Committee, two sources familiar with the report said yesterday.
One document described in the report was a top-secret, one-page CIA analysis concluding that Iraq's arms-procurement network was critical to its attempt to build the bomb, said the sources. "The document is as strong and definite a statement as they can make," said one of the sources familiar with the CIA report.
The analysis was dated Sept. 4, 1989, less than a month before Mr. Bush issued his directive ordering closer economic and political ties to Baghdad. The source said that the analysis contained stronger language about Iraq's weapons-procurement efforts than two other intelligence reports issued by the CIA after Bush's Oct. 2, 1989 order, known as National Security Directive 26.
However, a second source familiar with the CIA report to the Senate said that the agency did not "pull its punches" after Mr. Bush's directive. He said that intelligence warnings about the network were consistently strong from mid-1989 until just before the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990.
A White House spokesman said yesterday that he was unable to determine whether Bush read any of the CIA reports before issuing National Security Directive 26. While acknowledging that the policy failed, in recent weeks the president has defended the prewar assistance to Iraq as an effort to bring Iraq into "the family of nations."