- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 4, 2004

NEW YORK — Idled U.N. weapons inspectors are being moved from U.N. headquarters to the former offices of the oil-for-food program several blocks away, prompting complaints that sensitive documents must be stored in a poorly secured building.

Officials with the U.S. Mission to the United Nations said they are looking into the move, a decision taken without notification of the U.N. Security Council, which is responsible for oversight of the program.

The U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and a predecessor agency, which were charged with finding and destroying then-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, have occupied space in the 38-story U.N. Secretariat building since 1991.

But officials close to UNMOVIC say the agency has been ordered by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, through his undersecretary-general for human resources management, Catherine Bertini, to relocate to offices in a nearby commercial building occupied until recently by the scandal-ridden U.N.-Iraq oil-for-food program.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the move was a matter of “routine space management.” The world body is obliged by a lease to continue paying rent for the offices even though the oil-for-food program was closed down in November.

UNMOVIC, which was funded by revenue from the sale of Iraqi oil, is well able to pay the rent. It is thought to have as much as $100 million on hand even though its inspectors largely have been idle since leaving Iraq shortly before the outbreak of hostilities early last year.

The inspectors, who were supposed to re-enter Iraq at some unspecified date, were not allowed back by U.S. occupation authorities. In the meantime, the remaining staff of about 50 has spent its time analyzing data from inspections in late 2002 and early 2003 and updating data bases.

UNMOVIC officials said the new offices have not been subjected to security checks and have no secure facilities to store, discuss or transmit sensitive materials.

Those materials include files from the CIA and Britain’s MI-6 intelligence agency and Iraqi blueprints for the manufacture of weapons of mass destruction. Many of these are now sitting unguarded in cardboard boxes, a U.N. official said.

“It is really serious,” said one senior UNMOVIC official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “We have a lot of sensitive files, and I don’t know how they are going to be protected.”

UNMOVIC has hired a private security guard to watch the new facility, one official said, but he is only able to work during weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Officials also complain that Mr. Annan ordered the move without notifying the Security Council, which is responsible for oversight of UNMOVIC.

Rick Grenell, a spokesman for the U.S. Mission in New York, said the State Department was not informed of the move and that the matter “is now being looked into.”

Another veteran Security Council ambassador said he planned to question the move when the council convenes tomorrow.

The inspection team, once led by Hans Blix, is now being led by his former deputy Dimitri Perricos of Greece.

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