- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 4, 2003

UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 4 (UPI) — Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix hoped aloud Tuesday U.S. Secretary-of-State Colin Powell won't tip off Iraq and ruin any surprise visits when he gives his evidence presentation to the Security Council.

"I assume that he's not going to indicate any sites which we should visit because I would assume that the United States would have given the sites to us rather than telling the Iraqis that here is where we think the inspectors should go," said Blix, executive chairman of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission.

Powell was to be accompanied by CIA Director George Tenet. Iraqi Ambassador Mohammed Aldouri also was expected to speak at the historic session.

"So, judging from what he (Powell) has written himself and what we have heard, it's more likely to be based upon satellite imagery and upon the intercepts of telephone conversations or knowledge about Iraqi procurement of technical material or chemicals," he told reporters at a U.N. Correspondents Association briefing. "I think it's good.

"I think everyone has welcomed that he comes here," Blix said. "It is our main mission to find facts. And if governments have facts to put on the table, I think they're desirable."

The council's formal chamber was readied Tuesday for an audio-visual presentation at the Wednesday "ministerial level" meeting of the 15-nation panel. Angola is sending a vice-minister and Guinea and Syria no ministers. The permanent representatives, ambassadors, will be in the chairs for those two nations.

As the diplomatic window narrowed, as repeatedly threatened by Bush and Powell, before military action led by Britain and the United States, Blix also said he hoped for more substantive information from Baghdad during his visit to Iraq this weekend.

"During armed action I do not envision that there could be any continuation of inspections — probably not even after that," Blix told the reporters. "We do not feel that there is sufficient or adequate Iraqi cooperation on substance."

He explained that was why he didn't ask the council for more time, because he doesn't know when substantive cooperation would come, if ever.

"If you look at the mandate we have (Resolution 1441 of Nov. 8 and earlier measures), there wouldn't have been any formal reason for asking for more time," said Blix who has repeatedly pointed out there was no timetable, no deadline for inspections to end. "So, I do not need to ask for any more time. However, with the political situation, there is expectation that the United States and other members of the council might perhaps introduce a resolution that would decide upon or urge action."

For his part, "If the council felt that they would want the inspections to go on, I would welcome it because we had eight years of inspections, then we had four years of no inspectors there, and now we have had two months of inspections again. It's a rather short time to call it a day."

The retired head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said this "would then amount to containment … keeping Saddam (Hussein) in his box. That is containment."

The IAEA is now headed by Mohammed ElBaradei who is accompanying Blix to Baghdad Saturday and Sunday.

Blix said U.S. President George W. Bush "has no confidence in that. At least after 9/11, containment is not enough. It has to be something more sweeping and inspire more confidence."

The 74-year-old Swede pointed out that his 250-member team, including some 100 inspectors, was "more muscular" than the previous inspection regime.

Acknowledging that even his force could not "guarantee anyone that they do not have activities underground, in caves which we haven't discovered, or that they couldn't be mobile."

Said Blix, "There's another shortcoming, and that is that there could be fatigue in the Security Council. Inspections need to be backed up. Can we guarantee that there will be no production of anthrax somewhere in Iraq? Can you guarantee there is none in New Jersey?"

He said, "There is also a very stark difference between the option of inspection and the option of armed action."

When the military goes in it "can clean house, and you can have the assurance of a new regime for however long it lasts," the chief inspector said. "That will be somewhat of an assurance. But it's also the costs have to be considered by the … $100 billion or more, 250,000 men, and political consequences that we don't know."

That decision was up to the council, Blix said. "This is the choice. It's not for me to make the choice."

In the corridors around the council, speculation mounted about the presentation and what would come of it.

British Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock said, "This is a senior level decision-making subject so don't expect to see movement at the end of the debate."

French Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere said he didn't know what to expect from either Powell or Aldouri, "This is why I'm very cautious, because I don't know."

Aldouri told reporters he was "very curious" to listen to Powell. "I don't think that he will give any evidence convincing the international community."

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