BBC Films has optioned Saddam's Bombmaker, the autobiography of Khidhir Hamza, the former head of Iraq's nuclear weapons program who defected to the US in 1995.

The project is the first acquisition made by BBC Films' new Los Angeles office run by Peter Kalmbach, who will oversee development and production of the project. Producers are Scott Kalmbach and David Koplan.

'Given the current world crisis, my story is very sensitive and highly charged," Hamza said. "I have every confidence in BBC Films to handle it with care and integrity.'

While working in Iraq, Hamza had to avoid the political firing squad and hide from European assassins, all the while meeting deadlines set by Saddam Hussein. He eventually led Iraq's nuclear bomb-making efforts before fleeing the country with the aid of the CIA in 1995.

'This is an important story that is already helping to influence international policies,' says David Thompson, head of BBC Films. 'We plan to make this film for as wide an audience as possible.'