- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 14, 2002

NEW YORK The Bush administration yesterday rejected Iraq's accounting of its weapons of mass destruction, saying that Washington found the 12,000-page declaration incomplete.

"We know that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction and has programs to create more," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said. "What's not in the document may be as important as what is in the document."

The White House, conducting its own analysis of the filing, declined to comment specifically on the declaration until after chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix briefs the Security Council on Thursday.

But Sen. Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, the top Republican on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, called the Iraqi declaration "a bogus report."

"I don't know how you could put any credibility in any of it," he said.

Sen. Richard G. Lugar, Indiana Republican and incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called the inspections a "palliative" for countries that oppose intervention in Iraq.

Without being told where Iraq's biological and chemical weapons are stored, "There's just not a whole lot of confidence in the ability of these people to get the job done," Mr. Lugar told reporters in Washington.

The inspections, he said, are more of "a palliative for many countries who don't want to do anything. It's a time-consumer in a way."

Iraq says it has no biological, chemical or nuclear weapons and that it has no programs to build them.

The U.N. chief of nuclear-weapons safeguards also criticized Iraq's filing, saying most of the document's section dealing with nuclear weapons appeared to be recycled information.

Mohamed ElBaradei, director-general of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) characterized the 2,100-page section on atomic programs as "material we already had before."

Mr. ElBaradei said he hoped for new information in the roughly 300 pages now being translated from Arabic.

He said it could take a year for inspectors on the ground to determine whether Iraq is free of nuclear weapons, and he made an appeal for patience that appeared at odds with Washington's desire for a quick determination of whether Iraq has honored U.N. demands that it disarm.

"It will take us something like a year before we can come to any credible conclusion," Mr. ElBaradei told reporters at IAEA's Vienna, Austria, headquarters.

"Iraq has said they have not taken part in any nuclear-weapons activities. Of course, we must verify that statement. The process will take time, but you need to bear with us because if successful, this is the best way of ensuring that Iraq disarms," he said.

In its Nov. 8 resolution authorizing weapons inspectors to return to Iraq after a four-year absence, the Security Council demanded a current and comprehensive accounting of Iraq's chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

U.N. experts have begun translating and analyzing the report submitted last weekend and expect to have a "sanitized" version ready by Tuesday, when it will be given to the council's 10 elected members.

The five permanent members the United States, Britain, China, France and Russia already have a complete copy of the declaration and are performing their own analyses.

The edited document is expected to be somewhat less than 3,000 pages of narrative and will not include appendices that make up the bulk of the declaration.

In Iraq yesterday, weapons inspectors ran into their first delay since resuming site visits Nov. 27, when the weekend staff of a Health Ministry facility could not find the key to several locked rooms inspectors wanted to tour.

After a two-hour delay, senior Iraqi officials arrived at the Communicable Diseases Control Center in Baghdad and agreed to tag and seal the rooms until the inspectors could return.

It was the first time that the weapons experts have worked on a Friday, the Muslim day of rest.

U.N. inspectors said yesterday that the delay was not significant and that they expected to be admitted to the rooms in the future.

"The matter was resolved quickly," said Hiro Ueki, the Baghdad-based spokesman for the inspectors.

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