AFP, NIAMEY: Niger, the world's third producer of uranium, announced Thursday that it had ratified the anti-nuclear proliferation protocol of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
In ratifying the protocol, the west African state said in a statement, Niger showed its commitment to the “ideology of the IAEA and the will of the international community to stem the proliferation of nuclear weapons.”
With annual output of uranium averaging 3,000 tonnes, according to 2001 statistics, Niger joins Russia as the third-ranked producer of the radioactive material used in the construction of nuclear weapons.
Niger's uranium capacity made headlines in 2003 after US President George W. Bush included a reference to deposed Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's efforts to procure uranium from an African nation.
President Mamadou Tandja, along with the IAEA, has consistently rejected the claims, which Bush based on British intelligence as justification for launching the invasion of Iraq.
The controversy also resulted in the revealing of the identity of a CIA agent whose husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, was the first to blow the whistle on the Bush administration's alleged attempt to mislead the public.