Wednesday :: Feb 22, 2006

Uranium from Africa and the Niger forgeries: Did Elisabetta Burba actually see the alleged uranium "Accord"?

by eriposte

In my post earlier this morning I briefly pointed out that Panorama reporter Elisabetta Burba, who received a bunch of documents from Rocco Martino on October 7, 2002, did not actually see the bogus document that was supposedly the Niger-Iraq uranium sale "Accord".

Today, de Gondi at European Tribune continues his excellent work by providing translations of new articles in the Italian paper il Giornale (which is owned by the Berlusconi family). My focus in this post is an assertion in one of the articles that appears to suggest that Burba actually saw the "Accord". As I discuss below, that is not the case - and I need to point it out because in this complex affair details are important.

Let's start with de Gondi's comments about these new articles (emphasis mine, throughout this post):

Transcripts of interrogation sessions of the key figures in the Niger forgeries case have been leaked to the press. Il Giornale, owned by the Berlusconi family, has published four articles with excerpts, authored by Gian Marco Chiocci and Mario Secchi, since last Friday .

Franco Ionta, head prosecutor at the Rome Procura has been in charge of the Niger forgeries investigation since the case broke in 2003. Ionta is well known for his tight-lipped control of investigations. It comes as a surprise that testimony of this importance has been revealed. Until the case is closed and judged in a preliminary hearing, evidence and testimony is bound under secrecy.

Additionally, Martino, was being a bad boy:

Rocco Martino made a point of secretly taping all of his conversations.


Anyway, the il Giornale article that I would like to focus on in this post is this one, for which de Gondi offers a complete translation. Here's the translation of the relevant extract from the article:

Burba appears perplexed, Rocco interrupts her: "I've got a case load of these documents, I brought something else to show you." During the conversation Martino shows several documents to Burba, among them the famous Protocol of Agreement between Iraq and Niger. He asks her when she could publish, but Burba takes her time because as she reads the documents she finds errors. Rocco pushes her on: "What could happen in Italy after this article is published?" He fears the law might move even if in his opinion "Italy isn't involved." The reporter interrogates Rocco on the authenticity of the documents, and Martino: "What can I tell you, that I stole the whole batch? That would be enough. That's why I'm worried about the legal aspects."

It is clear that "Protocol of Agreement" (or "Memorandum of Understanding") refers to the fake Niger-Iraq uranium sale "Accord". So, did Martino really "show" the "Accord" to Burba? Not really.

Here is how Burba herself described this part of her meeting with Martino, in an article she wrote a long time ago (Nur al-Cubicle translation):

The famous Memorandum of Understanding is next: three pages plus a cover letter. Then there is a coded message. The only uncoded word is "Nitra". Is there a way to decrypt this?, I ask Mr. Petacca. We’ll see. First let’s finish going through the documents.

That sure sounds like she saw the "Accord" right? Not quite.

Burba and Martino continued to talk about some other documents and later returned to the topic of the MoU:

We spend the evening studying the papers laid out on the kitchen table. I grasp a few things that had escaped me in the restaurant. Above all, the text of the purchase agreement is missing, there’s only the cover letter. Groan…. But that’s not all. The letter which is supposed to accompany the agreement, dated Niamey, October 10, 2000, is received in Rome on September 28, 2000. Is it only an oversight? If that weren’t enough, the two letters from the Iraqi embassy have the same text (announcing the visit of Saddam’s ambassador to Niamey).

So, let's deconstruct what Burba is saying here.

From the list of the 18 (17+1 unrelated) known and publicized documents in the Niger dossier (which is a subset of the 22 pages (or more?) in the dossier), we can extract the specific documents ("three pages plus a cover letter") that Burba is referring to in her article. The documents are:

Those are the "three pages plus a cover letter".

Not the actual MoU or "Protocol of Agreement" or "Accord" - whatever you want to call it.

In other words, the statement in il Giornale's article is actually completely consistent with what Elisabetta Burba wrote. We should keep in mind that Burba was describing how her meeting with Martino transpired. So, she explained how she thought what she was receiving was the actual "Accord", but only realized later on, when she examined it more closely, that the "Accord" itself was missing from the set of 4 pages.

I wanted to point this out so that the il Giornale narrative is not misunderstood to think that Burba saw the "Accord".

eriposte :: 8:13 PM :: Comments (5) :: TrackBack (0) :: Digg It!