Turkey says seized substance not uranium

By Reuters (Haaretz 01/10/2002)

Turkish scientists said on Tuesday the substance at the center of a nuclear weapons scare was not uranium and that the material seized in the south of the country posed no threat.

Turkish police said over the weekend they had seized 15 kg (33 lbs) of weapons-grade uranium in a taxi about 250 km (155 miles from the border with Iraq, facing possible U.S. military action over its alleged program of weapons of mass destruction.

Officials said later the amount had in fact been about 140 grams (five ounces). The difference was explained by the weight of the metal container holding the material.

Scientists at Turkey's Nuclear Research and Training Center on the outskirts of Istanbul said on Tuesday the substance was not uranium and was not radioactive.

"It is a powder of zinc, manganese, iron and zirconium," Guler Koksal, director of the research facility told Reuters. "It is not radioactive, it is not chemical and it is not explosive."

Suspicions had been aroused by the words "primarily youranuom" written on the outside of the metal tube in which the sandy powder was stored in a glass vial.

"It doesn't mean anything," Koksal said, calling it "a very big mistake" for officials to have declared the substance weapons-grade uranium without proper checks.

U.S. President George W. Bush says Baghdad has tried to acquire uranium to develop a nuclear bomb.

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