Italy Denies Role in Iraq Uranium Claim

Italy denied allegations Wednesday that it gave the United States and Britain false documents suggesting that Saddam Hussein (search) had been seeking uranium in Africa, helping justify the case for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The documents in question detailed a purported Iraqi deal to buy 500 tons of uranium yellowcake (search) from Niger, a claim the United States and Britain used to try to prove Saddam Hussein (search) was seeking to develop weapons of mass destruction.

The government's denial came one day after officials said Nicolo Pollari, the director of the SISMI intelligence agency, would be questioned about the case Nov. 3 by members of a parliamentary commission overseeing secret services.

Premier Silvio Berlusconi's office "categorically" refuted claims reported in a series of articles this week by daily newspaper La Repubblica that SISMI passed on to the U.S. government and Britain a dossier it knew was forged.

"The facts that are narrated ... do not correspond to the truth," the government said in a statement in which it reiterated denials it had any "direct or indirect involvement in the packaging and delivery of the 'false dossier on Niger's uranium."'

Some of the intelligence supporting the claim that Saddam was seeking uranium in Africa was later deemed unreliable.

La Repubblica claimed that after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks Pollari was under pressure from Berlusconi — a firm U.S. ally — to make a strong contribution to the hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The newspaper is a strong opponent of Berlusconi.