- The Washington Times - Monday, February 10, 2003

The heads of the two bodies given the task of searching for proscribed weapons of mass destruction in Iraq left Baghdad on Monday after talks with Iraqi officials, and three key NATO members vetoed a move to provide military assistance to Turkey in the event of an attack by Saddam Hussein.

Hans Blix, chairman of the U.N. Monitoring Verification and Inspection Commission, headed to New York, and Mohamed ElBaradei, executive director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, arrived in Vienna after two days of talks with Iraqi officials, including Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan.

A spokeswoman for the IAEA said ElBaradei was at work in Vienna, preparing for his Friday presentation, along with Blix, to the U.N. Security Council.

"He'll be working on his presentation together with his team of experts," Melissa Fleming told United Press International.

ElBaradei also planned to focus on the issue of North Korea's nuclear program during the time, she said.

Fleming said ElBaradei would be unable to present details of the documents he and Blix received in Baghdad until Friday.

"They're going to be studying the document and will report on the general substance on the 14th," she said.

The documents are an "inch thick and some of it is Arabic," Fleming said.

According to Blix, the documents include information on anthrax and missiles.

On Sunday, Blix said his weekend talks with Iraqi officials had been "useful," but he also said he hoped Iraq now takes "disarmament issues more seriously."

ElBaradei said he expected the U.N. Security Council to give inspectors more time "as long as we are registering good progress."

The meetings with top Iraqi officials focused on specific ways Iraq can increase its cooperation with the world body. Blix and ElBaradei were scheduled to present their report on the status of inspections to the U.N. Security Council on Friday.

The United States says Iraq has a record of lying to the international community and is hiding proscribed weapons of mass destruction. It says Baghdad poses an immediate threat to global security and must be disarmed by force if necessary. It has urged the United Nations to disarm Iraq or says it will do so alone.

Blix said that although "breakthrough" was "a strong word" to describe the talks, "I would much rather see inspections than some other solution."

On Sunday he said Iraq had assured him it would expand a commission to search for weapons and weapons programs and "relevant documents nationwide." Agreement on U.S.-made surveillance planes came Monday, a day after talks ended.

Mohammed al Douri, Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations, said his side had sent a letter detailing Iraq's acceptance to Blix and ElBaradei. The letter "expresses our acceptance (on) U-2 and other — perhaps Russian or French — aircraft without any conditions," al Douri told reporters at the United Nations.

Blix said Sunday the Iraqi side had given them documents on anthrax and missiles and these papers would by studied by U.N. experts in New York on Monday and Tuesday. Iraq had also appointed a new commission on documents, Blix said.

Washington says Baghdad has already been given enough time and must be disarmed. On Sunday, President George W. Bush said the United Nations was facing a "moment of truth" over the Iraq issue and the world body had to decide if it would remain "relevant."

Bush Monday said Saddam was using civilians as human shields to protect his military forces so he could blame the United States should there be civilian casualties in the event of war.

Saddam views his people "as human shields and totally expendable," he said.

U.S. efforts to gain European support for a war on Iraq received a blow Monday when Belgium, France and Germany vetoed a request from Washington to provide military assistance to Turkey in the event of an attack by neighboring Iraq.

The three states, which are all staunchly opposed to the military buildup in the Gulf, have blocked the U.S. request for three successive weeks, claiming it would undermine efforts to find a peaceful solution to the stand-off between Washington and Baghdad.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Washington had already begun working one-on-one with 15 countries in NATO that want to provide defensive equipment to Turkey in the event it is attacked by Iraq.

"We were hopeful until the last minute that those three countries would not do what they've now done. The work is starting, and it will proceed at a good clip and in good time," Rumsfeld said. "There are 19 countries in NATO. So it's 16 to 3," he said.

Meanwhile, Greece, which holds the rotating European Union presidency, Monday called for a Feb. 17 summit of EU leaders to thrash out a united European stance on how to disarm Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. The emergency meeting is expected to be held in Brussels after an EU foreign ministers' conclave.

The EU has been split down the middle over Iraq. France and Germany are firmly opposed to a second Gulf War and are expected to table a U.N. Security Council resolution Friday calling for weapons inspections to be stepped up and for U.N. peacekeepers to be sent to Iraq.

Britain, Spain and Italy, on the other hand, back the U.S. military buildup in the Middle East and favor a second U.N. resolution urging Baghdad to comply fully with Security Council Resolution 1441 or face an all-out war.

Since resuming searches on Nov. 27 after a four-year hiatus, more than 100 inspectors from UNMOVIC and the IAEA have visited more than 500 sites across Iraq that are suspected of involvement in Iraq's programs to develop weapons of mass destruction.

U.N. inspectors are in Iraq following the passage last November of U.N. Security Council Res. 1441, which calls for Iraq's disarmament beginning with the return of the inspectors for the first time in four years and threatening "serious consequences" if Baghdad failed to cooperate with them.

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