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FBI reviewing authenticity of evidence

The FBI is looking into the forgery of a key piece of evidence linking Iraq to a nuclear weapons program, including the possibility that a foreign government is using a deception campaign to foster support for military action against Iraq, the Washington Post reported.

Officials are trying to determine whether the documents were forged in an effort to influence U.S. policy, or whether they may have been created as part of a disinformation campaign directed by a foreign intelligence service.

The FBI has not yet opened a formal investigation because it is unclear whether the bureau has jurisdiction over the matter.

The phony documents _ a series of letters between Iraqi and Niger officials showing Iraq's interest in a equipment that could be used to make nuclear weapons _ came to British and U.S. intelligence officials from a third country, not known Wednesday.

The forgery came to light during a United Nations meeting on March 7 when Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency told the Security Council on March 7 that U.N. and independent experts had decided the documents were "not authentic."

ElBaradei said experts scrutinized "the form, format, contents and signatures . . . of the alleged procurement-related documentation."

ElBaradei's disclosure, and his rejection of three other claims that U.S. intelligence officials have cited to support allegations about Iraq's nuclear ambitions, struck a powerful blow to the Bush administration's argument.

To the contrary, ElBaradei told the council, "we have to date found no evidence or plausible indications of the revival of a nuclear program in Iraq."

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