US pressure over Saddam scientist

THE United States secretly pressured Australia to place one of Saddam Hussein's former top biological weapons scientists at Victoria University in Melbourne.

But the federal government rejected a March 2008 request from the US to accept Professor Ali al-Za'ag, a microbiologist and genetic engineering expert, under a State Department program to provide employment for Iraqi experts in weapons of mass destruction.

A cable sent from the US embassy in Canberra in March last year confirms that Professor Za'ag had been refused a visa after Australian officials cited ''a range of compelling security, immigration and legal reasons''.

An Australian extension of Operation Paperclip?