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Iraqi Nuke Expert Surrenders

United States Brig. Gen. Vince Brooks, of U.S. Central Command, displays a 55-card deck of playing-sized cards that feature members of Iraqi leadership during a news conference at the Coalition Media Center, at Camp As Sayliyah, in Doha, Qatar, Friday, April 11, 2003. Brooks said that decks of the cards would be distributed among members of Coalition forces to aid in finding and capturing former Iraqi leaders considered dangerous or guilty of crimes.
AP
Coalition forces are claiming another high-level surrender by a leader in Iraq's alleged pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, according to a newspaper.

The Los Angeles Times reports Jafar Jafar, considered the father of Iraq's efforts to obtain a nuclear bomb, has turned himself in to U.S. forces in Baghdad. He follows Lt. Gen. Amer al-Saadi, Saddam Hussein's science adviser, who gave up on Saturday.

Jafar is not among the 55 Iraqis listed as wanted by the coalition. Al-Saadi is number 55 on that list. Officials tell the Times that both men could provide important information on locating banned weapons, which have yet to be found.

"They will have extremely valuable insights into where the bad stuff is, how they got it and where the other people are. The potential is there that these two guys can crack Saddam's weapons programs for us," the official said.

Former nuclear weapons inspector David Albright told the Times said Jafar was "always seen as the most important nuclear scientist" in Iraq and "probably the best scientist Iraq has ever produced."

According to the newspaper, Jafar claims to have been tortured and jailed in the 1980s, and then to have agreed upon release to work in developing the bomb. According to the Bush administration, Iraq was very close to developing a nuclear weapon at the time of the 1991 Gulf war.

The White House claims Iraq has tried to reconstitute its nuclear program since 1991, but United Nations inspectors found no evidence of this. One key piece of evidence cited by the United States — a document indicating that Iraq tried to buy uranium from Niger — is suspected of being a forgery.

In addition to the two known surrenders, war commander Gen. Tommy Franks said Sunday that the United States was holding several high-ranking Iraqi prisoners in western Iraq. Neither he nor Pentagon officials would say how many leading Iraqis have been captured.

Captured Iraqis include Watban Ibrahim Hasan, one of Saddam's three half brothers, who once served as Iraq's interior minister. Hasan was the five of spades in the deck of playing cards the U.S. military issued with pictures of wanted Iraqi officials.

Pentagon officials said they did not know if al-Saadi was sticking to his prewar assertions that Iraq no longer had any chemical or biological weapons.

The elegant, British-educated al-Saadi had been wanted because he was a special weapons adviser to Saddam and oversaw Iraq's chemical program in the past. He is believed to have in-depth knowledge of other weapons programs as well.

Al-Saadi told the German television station ZDF he had spent the war in his cellar and emerged after he saw a British TV report that he was being sought. He said he had no information on what happened to Saddam and repeated his assertion, made often in news conferences before the U.S.-led war started on March 20, that Iraq was free of weapons of mass destruction.

He was among the key figures who worked with U.N. weapons inspectors and often spoke for the Iraqi government in news conferences between the resumption of inspections in November and their end last month.

After U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's presentation to the U.N. Security Council in February, al-Saadi suggested that monitored Iraqi conversations Powell played were fabricated, that defector informants were unreliable and that satellite photographs "proved nothing."

Al-Saadi also had defended the regime's longtime practice of insisting that Iraqi officials be present during meetings between U.N. weapons inspectors and Iraqi scientists, saying that otherwise the scientists' remarks might be distorted.

"I know the programs for weapons of mass destruction and have always told the truth about these old programs, and only the truth. You will see, the future will show it, and nothing else will come out after the end of the war," he said in an interview with ZDF, according to the broadcaster's German translation.

"Because I know the program, together with my colleagues, because we have always worked together and nobody intervened. Nobody ever told me what I should say."

Also unclear was how helpful Hasan could be. He was dismissed as interior minister, the official in charge of Iraq's domestic security, and was shot by Saddam's son Odai in 1995 amid one of the many family squabbles.

Saddam did not trust Hasan and was having him watched, a U.S. official said. He was captured near Mosul in northern Iraq, apparently as he tried to escape to Syria, the official said.

Another half brother, Barzan Ibrahim Hasan, was targeted by a coalition airstrike Friday on a building in central Iraq. Military officials said Sunday they had not confirmed Barzan Hasan's fate.