WASHINGTON -- Despite the intensive allied bombing of Iraq's strategic military sites, Iraq still has enough undamaged weapons-grade uranium to make one nuclear bomb, according to administration officials and scientists who reviewed an Iraqi letter delivered to the United Nations that details its nuclear holdings.
"The principle purpose of bombing the nuclear sites was to destroy their fuel, which this document proves was not achieved," said Leonard S. Spector, a nonproliferation analyst and author at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
The letter, delivered to the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency Monday, also shows that at least some of Iraq's critical stockpile of potentially weapon grade fuel had been moved from the country's main nuclear installation at Tuwaitha near Baghdad to an undisclosed site for reasons of safety.
Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, American commander of the coalition forces, said in late January that warplanes "have neutralized their manufacturing capabilities."
The Iraqi letter said that nuclear material was shifted during the war from locations known to the International Atomic Energy Agency to "nearby locations, thus avoiding the possibility of a nuclear accident and any risks including radiation contamination."
Bush administration and agency officials said they were pleased with the Iraqi response, which followed an earlier letter that was considered insufficient. On April 18, when the Iraqis sent an inventory of all of its weapons of mass destruction to the United Nations as required by the Security Council cease-fire resolution, they denied having nuclear arms or weapons-grade material.
"This is a total capitulation," said one administration official who is familiar with Iraq's nuclear programs.