- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 23, 2003

UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 23 (UPI) — Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix Thursday coolly studied a "mixed bag" of information with his inspection regime's College of Commissioners to be presented the Security Council next week, as the Iraqi crisis ratcheted tighter and higher.

"It is behind closed doors, as you have noticed," he told reporters on emerging at one point from his consultations in the basement of U.N. headquarters.

"It is discussing the stock-taking that we did in Baghdad (Jan. 19-20) and a discussion of the implementation of the resolution" authorizing the return of inspectors to Iraq for the first time in four years, "and a discussion of what I may be saying on Monday" to the 15-member panel, he said.

"So I get various pieces of advice here and that is very helpful."

Blix said of the weapons inspection information obtained so far, "It's a mixed bag," adding, "If Iraq showed the cooperation in all respects asked of them, then it could be a fast process."

He said that "If Iraq showed the cooperation in all respects asked of them, then it could be a fast process."

The College of Commissioners oversees the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, of which the 74-year-old Swede is executive chairman. A retired international lawyer, Blix is also a former head of the International Atomic Energy Commission, now under Executive Director Mohammed ElBaradei, who was expected to join Blix before the council Monday.

"You have to realize that there are things that have gone well, like the prompt access, the infrastructure where the Iraqis have been helpful," Blix explained to reporters pushing for what he might tell his superiors. He calls himself a "servant" of the council.

"We've set practical arrangements in Vienna before" going to Iraq "and some other practical arrangements have been cleared up now," he said. "But there are other areas where we are not satisfied. The U2 (surveillance flights) is one. We had a problem with a helicopter flying up to the no-fly zone, I think we solved that one."

The United States mans the high-flying U2 flights and Iraq maintains it cannot be responsible for any aircraft, including U.N. helicopters, because of the British-U.S.-imposed no-fly zones north and south of Baghdad aimed at protecting Kurds in the north and Shiite Muslims in the south.

Asked about other inspections in other countries, South Africa almost always came up.

"This is an example that I have invoked many times in the past," Blix said. "Our experience in the IAEA was that South Africa wanted to have, create, confidence that they did away with the nuclear weapons that they built. They invited the IAEA to carry out the full inspection of that and they were most cooperative and suggested that we could go to such and such places; military, civilian, and if we wanted to go to any other they would open them up."

He said a similar situation applied to South African documents.

"Much simpler situation than the Iraqi situation," Blix said, pointing out that "nevertheless it demonstrated the will and the eagerness of South Africa to be believed in the world and thereby setting an example for Iraq."

Enabling Security Council Resolution 1441 of Nov. 8 mandated a report to the council 60 days after the resumption of inspections, which began Nov. 27, with the aim of ridding Iraq of weapons of mass destruction.

Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere of France, this month's rotating president of the Security Council, said, "There will be only Dr. Blix and Dr. ElBaradei in the public session which will take place in the (council) chamber and then members of the council will … have consultations in the consultation room." Consultations also were called on Iraq for next Wednesday

When he was asked, in his role as the French ambassador, on how much time was needed for inspections, de La Sabliere replied, "It is a question of weeks or months as long as the mechanism which has been set up by Resolution 1441 is producing results toward the goal, which is the peaceful disarmament of Iraq."

He saw "no reason" to give Blix and ElBaradei a deadline.

De La Sabliere admitted there were differences among members in the council, basically pitting Britain and the United States against France and Germany, and also very likely Russia and China. Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States are permanent, veto-wielding members of the council.

Non-permanent member Germany, however, is next month's president of the council.

Ambassador Gunter Pleuger of Germany said he had been asked by council members to set aside Feb. 14 as the date for the next UNMOVIC-IAEA briefing.

In Iraq, Hiro Ueki, the IAEA-UNMOVIC spokesman, said that for the first time a team of missile inspectors flew by helicopter to the al-Kindi research facility 250 miles north of Baghdad in the northern no-fly zone.

"This was the first such flight since an agreement was reached on procedures" earlier this week, said Ueki, who added that it was also the first time that a joint inspection was conducted by teams arriving from separate U.N. bases, this one a multi-disciplinary unit from Mosul, using different modes of transportation.

Ueki also said he wanted to clarify reports about a visit by four U.N. inspectors to the Al-Nidaa Mosque in Baghdad, saying that they visited the mosque on a private tour last Sunday and asked questions as tourists. There was no inspection at the mosque, he said.

Also, Iraqi Monitoring Directorate Gen. Hussam Mohammed Amin told reporters "We think that the differences between us (Iraq) and them (U.N. inspectors) are not that essential" on the flights.

"I expect that the report of Blix will be gray, not white, not black," Amin said of reconnaissance flights and helicopters. "I hope that he will not put magnifying lens on the disagreement points, which are mainly related to the U2."


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