Jack Straw stood accused of misleading the public over the threat from Iraq last night after he cited evidence that Saddam Hussein was trying to build a nuclear bomb without saying it was 12 years old.
Labour MPs claimed the Foreign Secretary had resorted to desperate tactics after he referred to Mahdi Obeidi, an Iraqi scientist, who has handed parts needed to build a gas centrifuge system that enriches uranium to American officials. What Mr Straw did not say was that Mr Obeidi had buried the parts and documents about the programme in his garden as long ago as 1991.
Mr Straw was interviewed on BBC Radio 4's Today programme about the controversy over the Government's claim that Iraq tried to buy uranium from Niger, from which the United States has distanced itself in recent days. The Foreign Secretary said: "One of the things that has happened since the fall of Baghdad has been the discovery in Baghdad of technical documentation and centrifugal parts which are necessary in the enrichment of uranium, which were buried at the home of an Iraqi nuclear scientist in Baghdad. People don't bury technical documents, still less parts of centrifuges, unless they have a purpose in doing so.
"It is difficult to believe there was any purpose in doing such a thing except the preparations were being made for further development of a nuclear programme."
The discovery of the parts and documents is the only success announced to date of the Iraqi Survey Group, which is searching for Saddam's weapons of mass destruction.