- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 25, 2003

The chief U.N. arms inspector said Tuesday there were "positive" elements in new letters Iraq has sent to his organization, a day after a U.N. draft resolution from the United States and its allies repeated an earlier warning to Iraq to disarm or face "serious consequences."

Hans Blix, head of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, told reporters Baghdad had sent some six new letters over the past few days to weapons inspectors that contained "new elements," which needed to be "followed up."

"There are some elements that are positive and which need to be explored further," Blix told reporters ahead of his meeting with his advisory College of Commissioners. "There is one letter in which they tell us that they have found an R-400 bomb containing liquid, in a site which is known to us at which they did dispose of biological weapons before.

"There is another letter that tells us that they have found some handwritten documents concerning the act of disposal of prohibited items in 1991. Now, all these have to be followed up, but these are new elements."

On Monday, a U.N. draft resolution from the United States and its allies warned Iraq to disarm or face "serious consequences."

The new resolution jointly by the United States, Britain and Spain said Baghdad "has failed to take the final opportunity" to disarm as called for in the Nov. 7 Res. 1441, which returned the inspectors to Iraq for the first time since 1998.

It contained no specific deadline for compliance, nor did it mention the use of force.

French President Jacques Chirac said Monday a second resolution was not justified, and it was up to the weapons inspectors to set a deadline.

Blix, however, downplayed that suggestion Tuesday.

"We are going by the resolutions which the council gives us," he said. "…Whatever deadline they set, we will abide by."

On Monday, France, Russia and Germany also submitted a memorandum proposing ways to tighten up the inspections and make them more effective. The proposals included tripling the number of inspectors, adding more offices in Iraq, and using aircraft for aerial surveillance.

Washington's latest draft first recalled that a 1991 resolution "declared that a (Gulf War) cease-fire would be based on acceptance by Iraq" of that measure and its disarmament requirements. It noted that Res. 1441 said: "Iraq has been and remains in material breach of its obligations, afforded Iraq a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations under relevant resolutions" and was warned of "serious consequences as a result of its continued violation of its obligations."

However, after 11 preambular paragraphs, it said that the council "decides that Iraq has failed to take the final opportunity afforded to it in Resolution 1441 (2002)," adding only that the 15-member council would continue to closely watch the situation, or in obligatory U.N. language, "remain seized of the matter."

The Paris, Berlin, Moscow-sponsored "Memorandum," nearly simultaneously circulated, began by stating: "Full and effective disarmament … remains the imperative objective of the international community. Our priority should be to achieve this peacefully through the inspection regime. The military option should only be a last resort."

But, it said, "the conditions for using force against Iraq are not fulfilled: While suspicions remain, no evidence has been given that Iraq still possesses weapons of mass destruction or capabilities in this field; Inspections have just reached their full pace; they are functioning without hindrance; they have already produced results; While not yet fully satisfactory, Iraqi cooperation is improving, as mentioned by the chief inspectors in their last report."

Iraq characterized the split in the council as a blow for Washington.

"It is right to say that the United States is now in its worst position despite all the hollow shows of power, acts of deception and falsehood which this foolish administration is practicing," the Iraqi Satellite Channel said in a broadcast late Monday.

During an interview with CBS News, portions of which were released Monday, Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi leader, issued a challenge to Bush to a televised debate on the need for war, with the participants taking part by satellite hookup.

"I am ready to conduct a direct dialogue with your president I will say what I want and he will say what he wants," he told CBS.

"This will be an opportunity for him, if he's committed to war, this will be an opportunity to convince the world."

The White House downplayed the offer as not serious.

Portions of the three-hour interview were scheduled to be shown on several CBS programs through the week.

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