- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 11, 2002

The CIA, coordinating a rush effort by as many as eight U.S. agencies to translate and evaluate Iraq's 12,000-page weapons declaration, expects to deliver a preliminary assessment to the White House today, administration officials said.
U.N. inspectors and the other four permanent members of the U.N. Security Council were working independently to evaluate the massive report, with chief weapons inspector Hans Blix predicting an initial assessment by late next week.
Iraq yesterday charged that Washington would distort the document to provide the grounds for a military assault.
"This is unprecedented extortion in the history of the United Nations, when [the United States] forced the president of the Security Council to give it the original copy of Iraq's declaration," the Iraqi Foreign Ministry said in a statement faxed to news organizations.
After an intensive lobbying effort, the United States was given the original copy of the Iraqi report late Sunday, which is to be copied and distributed to other permanent members of the Security Council: Russia, France, China and Britain.
The United States, with large numbers of trained experts capable of translating some 500 pages of Arabic in the report, has rushed ahead in the race to determine whether it contains any new information.
"The CIA is working on it, and the analysis will obviously take time, but the agency will prepare a preliminary assessment tomorrow and will send it to the White House," an administration official said last night.
Another official said it may be a "few weeks" before the administration can complete a more detailed evaluation, comparing material in the declaration to U.S. intelligence findings.
Accusing Washington of "possibly forging what it wants to forge," the Iraqi statement said, "This American behavior aims to play with the United Nations' documents with the aim of finding a cover for aggression against Iraq."
A beefed-up U.N. inspection team meanwhile conducted its most widespread searches to date, visiting chemical and explosives facilities, veterinary-medicine institutes and uranium-mining operations near the Syrian border.
A total of 42 inspectors are now at work in Iraq and another 28 arrived yesterday, Mr. Blix said in New York. He said he expects to have 100 inspectors in place by the end of the month.
With high-speed photocopiers working overtime, the United States delivered copies of the Iraqi arms declaration to the French and British governments in Washington on Monday night. Russian and Chinese officials received their copies in New York yesterday morning.
The other 10 council members will have to wait at least until next week to receive sanitized copies, which will be edited by the U.N. inspection team to remove material that could help with the production of outlawed weapons.
The handling of the document has created bitterness among the 10 temporary members, who are elected to the Security Council for two-year terms, complicating the prospects for any future vote on military action.
Several ambassadors demanded at a closed-door luncheon with Mr. Blix yesterday that all 15 nations be involved in council decision-making from now on, according to a participant.
Syria had denounced the two-tier system earlier, and Norwegian Foreign Minister Jan Petersen yesterday protested the treatment of some members as "B-nations."
U.S. officials said the American copy of the report was distributed yesterday morning to counterproliferation, linguistic and weapons experts at the CIA, with some parts sent to weapons experts at other agencies.
"We've got lots of translators, analysts, experts. Every agency in the U.S. government has a role," said one U.S. official, who like others spoke on the condition that he not be identified. "The CIA is in charge. There must be six or eight agencies involved."
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the U.S. analysis would be deliberate and careful in order to "understand what it is that Iraq is purporting to declare, as well as what they have failed to declare."
One source said he had been told to expect little new information in the declaration and that Iraq appeared to have simply pieced together a number of previous declarations.
In New York, Mr. Blix said after his luncheon with the Security Council members that he expects to have a working version of the arms declaration translated by Monday, and will complete a preliminary assessment of its substance by Dec. 19.
He declined to characterize the accuracy or usefulness of the report until then. So far, he said, his experts are mostly focusing on editing out information that might aid the spread of nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction.
Mr. Blix and several council members said yesterday that they expect the sanitized version of the declaration to be distributed to the full council by early next week.
"The bottleneck, frankly, is translation. We have about 500 pages in Arabic which need to be translated," he said.
Mr. Blix, who oversees the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, said his office had already begun to coordinate efforts with experts from some of the five permanent council nations.
"We have asked the P-5, who have the experts on proliferation-sensitive matters, to advise us by Friday," he said. "We are willing to share with them our conclusions."
Rowan Scarborough and Bill Gertz contributed to this report.

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