So back to our topic at hand.
The newly-released Butler Report -- a rough analogue in the UK to the Senate intel report out last week -- not only exonerates Tony Blair's government for the claims included in the Iraqi weapons 'dossier' but -- in an act of supererogation that gives new meaning to the Anglo-British 'special relationship -- also exonerates President Bush for using his famous 'sixteen words' in the 2003 State of the Union speech, calling his claim "well-founded."
So let's see where this leaves us.
From the start of the Niger uranium controversy, or rather since the IAEA dismissed the purported agreement documents as forgeries, the British have stood by their claim that the Iraqis were trying to purchase uranium in Africa and, specifically, that their conclusion was based on sources separate from the discredited documents.
And, indeed, the Butler Report repeats precisely this claim: that the UK had "credible" evidence that the Iraqis were trying to purchase uranium in Africa, specifically from Niger and the Democratic Republic of Congo. (The relevant discussions in the Report are on pages 121-125)
The report states that, like many other countries, the Brits became aware of an Iraqi diplomat's visit to Niger in 1999 and concluded that this was likely aimed at discussing uranium sales. This judgment was made on the basis of a) Iraq's earlier purchases of uranium from Niger (circa late 70s and early 80s), b) their presumed resumption of a nuclear weapons program, and c) the fact the Niger exports little of value beside uranium.
This is a standard part of the story, widely known.
The reference to the additional evidence on Niger comes on page 122, paragraph 495 ...
During 2002, the UK received further intelligence from additional sources which identified the purpose of the visit to Niger as having been to negotiate the purchase of uranium ore, though there was disagreement as to whether a sale had been agreed and uranium shipped.
The Report also says this with respect to the Democratic Republic of Congo ...
There was further and separate intelligence that in 1999 the Iraqi regime had also made inquiries about the purchase of uranium ore in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In this case, there was some evidence that by 2002 an agreement for a sale had been reached.
The problem is that the Report doesn't give any details about what those reports were, thus giving very little way to assess their credibility. And that leaves us pretty much where we've been for a year, with the Brits claiming they had other evidence not connected to the documents but unwilling to describe what the evidence was.
If this subject interests you, I'd strongly suggest that you read the whole passage yourself. It's quite brief, no more than a couple minutes to read.
More on this to follow.