- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 16, 2003

U.N. inspectors said Thursday they discovered empty chemical warheads at an Iraqi inspection site, and the heads of the two bodies that are looking for Iraq's suspected weapons of mass destruction said Baghdad had imported illegal material and had to cooperate more with inspection teams to avoid war.

U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq said they had discovered 11 empty chemical warheads in the Ukhaider Ammunition Storage Area and a 12th warhead "that requires further evaluation."

"The warheads were in excellent condition and were similar to one imported by Iraq during the late 1980s," said Hiro Ueki, joint spokesman for the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission and the International Atomic Energy Agency. "The team used portable x-ray equipment to conduct a preliminary analysis of one of the warheads and collected samples for chemical testing."

John Negroponte, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, called the development "interesting."

Earlier, in separate news conferences, Hans Blix, head of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, and Mohammad ElBaradei, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Iraq needed to present evidence that would show it does not have weapons of mass destruction.

"We have found things that have been illegally imported, even in 2001 and 2002," Blix said after briefing senior EU officials in Brussels. "The question of whether they relate to weapons of mass destruction requires further inspection."

ElBaradei said Baghdad had cooperated with inspectors thus far, but more was needed.

"This kind of proactive approach is not there. And that's why I said they need to shift gears," ElBaradei said after meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov. "As long as we can continue to go around the country and come to the conclusion, 'well we are not 100 percent sure,' this is not good enough for the Security Council."

Both officials are to visit Baghdad this weekend before reporting to the U.N. Security Council on the state of the inspections Jan. 27.

Blix, who is to brief French President Jacques Chirac and British Prime Minister Tony Blair Friday before traveling to Baghdad, said the message he was taking to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was that the situation is "very tense and very dangerous."

On the eve of the 12th anniversary of the Gulf War that drove Iraqi forces from Kuwait, the United States has sent more than 100,000 troops to the region and Washington has made it abundantly clear it intends to use them if Baghdad does not comply with U.N. calls to disarm.

Blix said patience with Iraq was running out and it had to decide whether to cooperate more proactively with weapons inspectors or face the threat of a U.S.-led war.

"We feel Iraq must do more than it has so far in order to make inspections a credible avenue. The other major avenue is in the form of armed action against Iraq," he said. "We are trying our best to make inspections effective so we can have a peaceful solution."

The Swedish diplomat attempted to dampen speculation that his Jan. 27 report would automatically trigger an assault on Baghdad.

"I don't think history will finish on Jan. 27," he said, adding the report was just an "update" and that further Security Council briefings were scheduled for February.

Blix is planning a second report in March on Iraqi compliance or non-compliance after the one being issued on Jan. 27. He argues the second report was provided by the U.N. move creating his inspection organization.

Washington said it was opposed to the move because the 1999 U.N. resolution setting that timetable was no longer relevant.

The 1999 resolution, Fleischer said, was "based on the assumption that Iraq would cooperate and comply (with earlier mandates), and at the end of the day have (economic) sanctions removed.

"And 1441, which was, of course, enacted after witnessing Iraq's failure to cooperate and failure to comply, set out a different series of times and procedures …1441 is relevant to the reality of today."

ElBaradei said Iraq needs to present evidence of the destruction of weapons of mass destruction.

"What they ought to do is come forward," he said.

He also said several countries had supplied information about Iraq's suspected weapons of mass destruction, but did not elaborate.

"We are going to intensify our inspection process in the next few weeks and months," he said. "We have also started to receive specific actionable information from many member states and we intend to pursue our action on this information."

Blix said that after two months, 130 U.N. inspectors were in Iraq, using eight helicopters and radar equipment to search for weapons of mass destruction.

However, the chief investigator accused Iraqi authorities of preventing inspectors from interviewing 500 Iraqi scientists identified as having worked on weapons projects.

"If Iraq is absolutely sure they have nothing to hide, it should ensure they are allowed to be interviewed without intimidation," Blix said.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana Thursday also stepped up the pressure on Baghdad to comply with U.N. resolutions or face military action.

"It is not enough that Saddam Hussein's regime opens doors. It has to be much more proactive to convince the United Nations that it has disarmed its weapons of mass destruction," he told reporters after meeting Blix.

Solana said a war with Iraq could be averted but "the responsibility is basically on the side of Saddam Hussein."

In Moscow, Ivanov said Washington was hindering the work of the weapons inspectors.

"We are concerned by the growing pressure being exerted on the international inspectors and the leaders of the inspection groups by particular circles in Washington," he said.

Meanwhile, U.N. weapons inspectors searched homes in Iraq for the first time Thursday, including one owned by a nuclear scientist.

The homes were located in Baghdad's Al Ghazaliyah district and are not among sites declared by Iraq.

Two scientists, Faleh Hassan Al Basri and Shakir Al Jabouri, were questioned and news reports said Al Basri was seen leaving with the inspectors with a box of documents and paperwork.

Al Basri heads the Al Razi Company, which was founded by Iraq's Military Industrialization Commission. Many nuclear scientists work for the body.

Chemical weapons inspectors also visited the Al Tahdi company in Baghdad and to an Iraqi military facility west of the city.

Another chemical weapons team flew over the base of an Iraq-based Iranian militant group, Mujahedin Khalq, near the Iranian border.

Missile teams visited the Al Nida company for the second time. The site was once used to make missiles.

U.N. weapons teams are in Iraq in line with Security Council Resolution 1441 to ascertain whether Saddam's regime possesses proscribed weapons of mass destruction.

The United States says if the United Nations does not take decisive action to disarm Iraq, it will do so unilaterally.


(With reporting by William M. Reilly at the United Nations and Gareth Harding in Brussels)

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