- The Washington Times - Friday, February 28, 2003

UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 28 (UPI) — Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix said of Iraq Friday, "Without the required cooperation, disarmament and its verification will be problematic" and that after three months of resumed inspections, "the result in terms of disarmament have been very limited so far."

In a report to the Security Council, which mandated the inspections, the executive chairman of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission said: "Iraq could have made greater efforts to find any remaining proscribed items or provide credible evidence showing the absence of such items. The results in terms of disarmament have been very limited so far."

He pointed out Iraq bore the obligation under council resolutions "to cooperate immediately, unconditionally and actively."

Blix said in the report that Baghdad could have taken "greater advantage" of its Dec. 7, 12,000-page, declaration to report proscribed items or to verify their destruction.

As before, he said, "Iraq has been helpful on 'process,'" but not on "substance."

"It is hard to understand why a number of the measures, which are now being taken, could not have been initiated earlier," the 12-page report said. "If they had been taken earlier, they might have borne fruit by now.

"It is only the middle of January and thereafter that Iraq has taken a number of steps, which have the potential of resulting either in the presentation for destruction of stocks or items that are proscribed or the presentation of relevant evidence solving longstanding unresolved disarmament issues," his report concluded.

"The (Feb. 14) presidential decree … which prohibits private Iraqi citizens and mixed companies from engaging in work relating to weapons of mass destruction, standing alone, is not adequate to meet the United Nations requirements," Blix said, adding that the commission is asking whether "a comprehensive regulation is being prepared in line with several years of discussions between Iraq" and inspectors.

"It has not yet proved possible to obtain interviews with Iraqi scientists, managers or others believed to have knowledge relevant to the disarmament tasks in circumstances that give satisfactory credibility," the report said. "The Iraqi side reports that it encourages interviewees to accept such interviews, but the reality is that, so far, no persons not nominated" by the Iraqi side "have been willing to be interviewed without a tape recorder running or an Iraqi witness present."

In the report, submitted Thursday morning, he called "essential" Iraq's cooperation in the destruction of al-Samoud 2 missiles.

Blix received a letter Thursday evening from Amir Al-Saadi, Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's science adviser, informing him of "our acceptance in principle of your request" to destroy the missiles beginning no later than Saturday.

Asked Friday what was meant by "in principle," Blix replied, "I asked in my letter to him for this to be clarified. So, we'll see what comes out of that."

The chief inspector, who sent his missive Thursday night, said his deputy, Demetrius Perricos, was in Baghdad to make arrangements for the missile destruction. Blix also noted increased activity by the Iraqis.

On that note he was asked if the proverbial glass was half full or half empty because of increased Iraqi disarmament activity. "Well, it's a glass in which they poured more water."

United Press International obtained an unofficial translation of the Al-Saadi letter to Blix, which suggested "the timing of this request seems to us to be one with political aims especially that those missiles, production and testing facilities" had been declared, were being monitored and "their issue is not considered urgent in comparison with other technical tests related to verifying remaining unsolved issues of previous programs."

UNMOVIC experts determined the missiles exceeded the 150 kilometer, or about 93 mile, range set by the council after the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Iraq had said the missiles were tested without electronic guidance systems or warheads but if they were would not exceed the limit.

Al-Saadi repeated a request for technical talks with UNMOVIC to establish "a framework and a timetable" and other procedural criteria "for implementation" of Security Council resolutions and asked a technical team be dispatched "urgently."

Asked how important the missile destruction was, Blix said, "Well, it's very big chunk of things. I mean there are very many of these missiles and a lot of items that pertain to them … to be destroyed. So it is a very significant piece of real disarmament."

Expecting the destruction to begin Saturday, he said, "Maybe tomorrow evening or Sunday we will have more to say."

Asked about the contents of the report, Blix replied, "I am supposed to give a picture of the situation as it exists and if it changes, well then my report changes a bit. When this report was written I had to note that while they had taken a number of steps which might help us to establish facts about questions that were still open they had not come to fruition yet and the same applied to the missiles."

The UNMOVIC chief said that when he delivers his oral report to the council next week, "There surely are going to be more (changes). The Iraqis are at the present time very active."

He added that "as reality changes, my reports change."

As for the reality of Friday, Blix said, "We have been digging in the ground quite a lot. They have dug up bombs and fragments of bombs, bottom plates of bombs which are being counted, etc. and it's a little too early yet to say what the result is but there is a great deal of activity."

In Baghdad, UNMOVIC spokesman Hiro Ueki said a biological team was digging for "R-400 aerial bombs and bomb fragments that Iraq claims were filled with biological weapons. Additional fragments of R-400 bombs were identified."

He said the fragments were found at the Al Aziziyah Airfield and Firing Range, while UNMOVIC teams were also at Djerf al Naddaff southeast of Baghdad and the Al Harith Missile Maintenance Workshop where they tagged missiles. An International Atomic Energy Agency inspection team conducted a radiation survey 6 miles north of Baghdad.

Iraqi sources in Baghdad said possession of the missiles did not constitute a material breach of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441 under which international arms inspectors returned to Iraq last November after a four-year absence.

Russia was prepared to veto a second resolution authorizing force against Iraq if it is necessary to maintain "world stability," Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said Friday in Beijing.

"Russia has the right of veto at the U.N. Security Council, and, if it is required in the interests of international stability, it may use this right," Ivanov said following two days of meetings with Chinese officials.

"Every permanent member of the U.N. Security Council should use the right of veto with great care and a sense of responsibility, in the interests of peace and security," Ivanov said.

Ivanov insisted Russia will support any new resolutions that support the weapons inspectors' work, and appealed for more time for them to carry out their inspections. "Russia will not support a resolution, or resolutions, which would open up the way, directly or indirectly, to settlement of the Iraqi problem through the use of force."

Russia, France and Germany have proposed extending inspections for four more months. Russia and China on Friday issued a joint declaration saying a military conflict with Iraq "can and should be avoided."

In Madrid Friday, British Prime Minister Tony Blair dismissed reports that Iraq will comply with U.N. demands and destroy its al-Samoud 2 missiles.

"This is not the time for games. We know perfectly well what he has to do," Blair told a news conference.

In an interview published in Friday's edition of USA Today, President George W. Bush said Saddam has no intention of disarming and must be forced to do so.

Bush called war his "last option." But he also said he believes that Americans "fully understand" that there may be a war soon.

"We will disarm him now," Bush said in the newspaper interview.

Diplomats late Thursday emerged from the first-ever debate on the latest draft resolutions and counter-resolutions on Iraq by all 15 members of a divided U.N. Security Council after an intense three-hour, closed-door session where the majority sought to disarm Iraq peacefully.

(With contributions from Roy E. Clark in Washington)


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