- The Washington Times - Friday, January 10, 2003

NEW YORK Top U.N. weapons inspectors yesterday demanded that Baghdad be more cooperative even as they acknowledged that seven weeks of unhampered inspections have not produced any "smoking guns."

The inspectors told the U.N. Security Council that the Iraqi government had not answered questions about its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs, nor had it accounted for chemical weapons stocks and high explosives that are known to be missing.

In addition, they said, Baghdad had not yet provided a comprehensive list of scientists involved in various weapons programs, nor had it permitted private interviews with experts.

"The absence of smoking guns and the prompt access which we have had so far, and which is most welcome, is no guarantee that prohibited stocks or activities could not exist at other sites, whether above ground, underground or in mobile units," chief inspector Hans Blix told council members yesterday.

U.S. officials expressed their support for inspections but showed impatience with the slow pace of the U.N. hunt for evidence of prohibited activities.

"The problem with guns that are hidden is you can't see their smoke," said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer. "And so, we will still wait to see what the inspectors find in Iraq and what events in Iraq lead to."

Washington kept the pressure on, despite statements by the inspectors and several council ambassadors that the next deadline for the inspectors to report on their progress would not be a trigger for military action. A report on the inspections is due Jan. 27.

The Jan. 27 report "will be another in a series of reports, likely not the last," said British Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock. "January 27th won't necessarily produce something new or dramatic. My advice is to calm down."

But U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte declined to mute the speculation, using diplomatic code words to demand full and "proactive" compliance with the inspections.

"Anything less is not cooperation and will constitute further material breach" of Security Council resolutions, he told reporters after a three-hour council meeting with the inspectors.

The purpose of yesterday's closed-door meeting was to discuss the inspectors' analysis of Iraq's Dec. 8 declaration of its weapons programs. The United States and its allies have declared the report to be incomplete. The inspectors also briefed the council on the status of their search efforts in the country, where they have so far made 259 visits to 215 sites.

"The declaration didn't provide us with any new evidence and didn't answer the questions that were put already in 1999," Mr. Blix told reporters after briefing the council. "The Iraqis could have looked at those questions and could have answered better."

Mr. Blix, head of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (Unmovic), said he was concerned about several issues, including the quantities and status of stores of deadly VX gas that Iraq is known to have.

He also told the council that Baghdad had obviously and illegally imported "a large number of missile engines" and the material to create solid fuel for them.

"We have yet to determine the significance of these illegal imports relating to the specific WMD-mandate of Unmovic," he added. WMD refers to weapons of mass destruction.

Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told council members and then the press that Iraq has imported high-density aluminum tubes that appear to be intended for use in the development of rockets. He said it would be possible to adapt the tubes to process enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon.

Mr. ElBaradei also said his inspectors were looking into reports that Iraq had tried illegally to import uranium since 1991 and that he welcomed any intelligence provided by U.N. member governments.

It was clear from the inspectors' remarks that attempts to interview Iraqi scientists and other weapons experts has become a sore point.

Mr. ElBaradei said it had been impossible to interview nuclear scientists without a government official present, which "does not indicate the proactive cooperation we expect from Iraq."

Mr. Blix noted that Iraq is a "totalitarian country, and we do not want to have interviews where people are intimidated, as has happened in the past." He said he would press that point when he and Mr. ElBaradei travel to Baghdad for meetings on Jan. 19 and 20.

The United States has repeatedly demanded that Unmovic take scientists and their families outside Iraq for debriefings so they will be less vulnerable to retaliation by the Iraqi government. Iraq may fear the defection of key personnel.

Mr. Blix repeatedly has indicated his reluctance to be seen as a "defection agency" but said yesterday that the safety of Iraqi experts would have to be guaranteed.

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