YELLOWCAKE UPDATE….Although the CIA and ? eventually ? George Bush have agreed that the State of the Union address should not have included allegations that Iraq tried to buy uranium from Africa, Britain has stood by the charge, saying it has independent evidence that has not been shared with the United States. But what was that evidence?

The only hint they have given as to its nature is that it concerns a visit to the country by an Iraqi representative in 1999. “Former Niger government officials believed that this was in connection with the procurement of yellow cake [uranium],” according to [Foreign Secretary Jack] Straw.

Today, the Independent claims that this evidence is also crumbling:

The man who made the trip, Wissam al-Zahawie, Iraq’s former ambassador to the Vatican, told The Independent on Sunday: “My only mission was to meet the President of Niger and invite him to visit Iraq. The invitation and the situation in Iraq resulting from the genocidal UN sanctions were all we talked about. I had no other instructions, and certainly none concerning the purchase of uranium.”

Mr Zahawie, 73, speaking to the British press for the first time, said in London: “I have been cleared by everyone else, including the US and the United Nations. I am surprised to hear there are still question marks over me in Britain. I am willing to co-operate with anyone who wants to see me and find out more.”

Zahawie describes his trip in detail in this story, and of course it’s hard to say how seriously to take it. After all, he’d likely deny any involvement regardless of what his instructions had been.

Still, it’s an interesting development. Apparently Uranium-gate isn’t quite dead yet.

UPDATE: Barton Gellman and Walter Pincus have a long story in the Washington Post today showing the evolution of the Bush administration’s claims that Saddam had an active nuclear program. It’s good stuff.

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