- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 21, 2002

NEW YORK The Bush administration plans to share intelligence with U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq as early as this weekend, in what one U.S. official described as a test.

Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix will get the information he needs, a senior administration official said yesterday.

"But UNMOVIC is being tested here as well. They have to show they can use the information effectively," the U.S. official said, referring to the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, which is headed by Mr. Blix.

The decision came a day after the United States declared Iraq in "material breach" of U.N. resolutions a diplomatic term to justify the use of force.

President Bush said yesterday that he found Iraq's 12,000-page weapons dossier, required by a November resolution passed unanimously by the U.N. Security Council, disappointing.

"We expected [Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein] to show that he would disarm and it's a long way from there," Mr. Bush said in a brief appearance at the White House.

The U.S. continued its military buildup in the Persian Gulf, with plans to have 50,000 combat troops in place early in the new year.

Mr. Bush also postponed a planned trip to Africa in January to avoid being out of the country when a decision will be made on whether to go to war.

By giving the inspectors some intelligence now, the administration hopes to determine "how secure [the inspectors] are, how effective they are, how they press the Iraqis," said the U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

"If UNMOVIC can maintain cooperation, they'll get more. If they can't handle it effectively, that will be noted, too."

The first batch of data will apply to a handful of suspected chemical-weapons sites.

The two U.N. agencies involved in the Iraqi inspections, UNMOVIC and the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), have been critical of the Iraqi declaration.

But Mr. Blix also has been critical of the Bush administration, as well as Britain, for not sharing information.

"If [Britain] and the U.S. are convinced and they say they have evidence, well, then one would expect that they would be able to tell us where is this stuff," Mr. Blix said in an interview with the BBC.

Asked whether he was getting all the cooperation he wanted, he said, "Not yet. We get some, but we don't get all we need."

American officials say they have planned all along to share the information with U.N. inspection teams.

A second administration official, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Washington would hand over "the strategic stuff, the good intel" when UNMOVIC and the IAEA had the manpower in place to follow the leads.

"There's no point in giving them anything if it will take them seven or eight hours to get there, and they only have a couple of guys," the official said. "We want, when they hear it, to be ready to swing hard."

As of yesterday, there were 115 inspectors in Iraq, 96 for UNMOVIC and 19 for IAEA.

U.S. officials say at least 200 are needed.

In Washington, one official said the Bush administration was "mighty irritated" with Mr. Blix's public criticism.

"He knows we're going to give him the intelligence, and he knows when. I don't know what he thinks he's doing," the official said.

Mr. Blix, a Swedish lawyer, has resisted Washington's demands on a number of inspection-related issues, such as taking Iraqi scientists and experts outside the country for questioning.

On Thursday, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said Iraq was in material breach of key Security Council resolutions calling for it to disarm.

He said Baghdad's 12,000-page declaration of its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and long-range missile capabilities was filled with omissions and that Washington has evidence to prove it.

Russia, a key member of the Security Council, disagreed yesterday.

Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, in Washington for a meeting on the Middle East, said Moscow does not consider Iraq's declaration to be a material breach.

He described the declaration as "very comprehensive" and said it does not qualify as a violation of council resolutions.

The Iraqis continued to maintain that they have no weapons of mass destruction and that Washington's charges were politically motivated.

"If they have other information, as they allege, why don't they give it to the inspection teams to verify?" said the daily newspaper al-Thawra, controlled by Iraq's ruling Ba'ath Party.

Nicholas Kralev contributed to this report in Washington.

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