- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 11, 2003

The Bush administration said yesterday it was sharing with U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq as much intelligence as they can handle, but it would offer more information if they improved their capabilities.
The State Department issued the administration's position shortly after Mohamed ElBaradei, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), called on the United States to provide "specific information on where to go and where to inspect."
"We need more actionable information," he told reporters during a visit to Washington yesterday. "We have a good process of a dialogue with the United States and with other intelligence agencies, and I hope in the next few weeks this process will intensify and that we'll get additional information that can accelerate our job in the field."
Asked to respond to Mr. ElBaradei's appeal, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said, "They are getting the best that we've got."
But then he clarified that Washington is sharing intelligence on Iraq's weapons programs with the inspectors "based on their ability to use it," and they are not getting "every single detail, particularly on sources and methods."
"The information is tailored to their ability to conduct inspections and to put the information to good use," Mr. Boucher told reporters.
He said the inspections are still "gaining momentum at this point," noting that the U.N. team had just received helicopters that will help its work.
The United States will "step up" its "provision of information" to the inspectors "commensurate" with the improvement of their capabilities, Mr. Boucher said.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Washington was providing "a tremendous amount of information" to the inspectors and would continue to do so.
The White House insisted earlier this week that it knew "for a fact" that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. The Bush administration has provided no evidence, saying it would wait to see the U.N. inspections' outcome.
Mr. ElBaradei met yesterday with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, incoming Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard G. Lugar, Indiana Republican, and other members of Congress.
"I have told the secretary that we are inching forward, but not as fast as we would like to be," he told reporters after meeting with Mr. Powell, a day after briefing the U.N. Security Council on the status of two months of inspections, as well as Iraq's declaration of its weapons programs.
Mr. ElBaradei and Hans Blix, chief of the U.N. weapons inspection team, said they had found no "smoking guns" to prove that Iraq has exotic arms. But they demanded that Baghdad provide evidence to back claims that it had destroyed its weapons capabilities.
Yesterday, Mr. ElBaradei said he did not think there would be enough information on Iraq's arms programs to enable the Security Council to decide on military action on Jan. 27, when he and Mr. Blix are next scheduled to report.
"January 27 is a status report," he said. "That's not the end of our work. We have been saying to the Security Council that we need much more time before we come to a conclusion."
Mr. Powell said the IAEA chief had briefed him on preparation for his and Mr. Blix's upcoming trip to Baghdad.
They will "present to the Iraqis their need for additional cooperation, better cooperation than the kind of cooperation we've seen so far, and to fill in the gaps that have been noted in the information they have been providing," Mr. Powell said.
Also yesterday, President Bush met with Iraqi opposition figures to discuss plans for a postwar Iraq.
"The president wants to talk to them about his hopes and dreams for the future of a free Iraq that is inclusive and unified and democratic," Mr. Fleischer said of Mr. Bush's Oval Office meeting with members of the "free Iraqi community."
Iraqis at the meeting included Kanan Makiya, an intellectual, architect, and novelist loosely affiliated with the Iraqi National Congress but more closely connected to the Iraqi Foundation, a nonpolitical organization; Rand Rahim, head of the Iraqi Foundation; and Hatem Mukhlis, an Iraqi-American doctor from upstate New York.

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