- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 25, 2003

VIENNA, Austria The head of the U.N. nuclear agency will tell the U.N. Security Council on Monday that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein has done a "quite satisfactory" job of cooperating with inspectors in some areas.

However, he will say that inspectors need more time to complete their search in Iraq for weapons of mass destruction.

"Their report card will be a 'B' quite satisfactory," a spokesman for Mohamed ElBaradei, director-general of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, said of the Iraqis yesterday.

The White House dismissed the IAEA assessment.

"It's pass-fail. Iraq either is in compliance or not. And so far, Iraq has failed to pass the test," spokesman Sean McCormack said.

Even so, the Bush administration is considering giving the inspectors more time as a means of reassuring anxious European allies, a senior U.S. official said.

Later, IAEA spokesman Mark Gwozdecky, seeking to qualify his report-card comments, said the "B" would be only for Iraqi responses to inspectors' questions and requests for information.

"We're not in the position of issuing grades that's for the Security Council to do," Mr. Gwozdecky said. "We just report the facts, and our goal is the disarmament of Iraq. They're not coming forward to help us. They're not bringing forward original documentation."

In his remarks Monday to the Security Council, Mr. ElBaradei will repeat his contention that inspectors need at least several more months to do their work, Mr. Gwozdecky said. He also will say that the Iraqis "need to help themselves" by pointing the experts in the right direction.

Mr. ElBaradei will brief the council on nuclear issues, while chief U.N. inspector Hans Blix presents information on Iraq's biological, chemical and missile programs.

Mr. Gwozdecky said Mr. ElBaradei will make a case for additional pressure on Baghdad to encourage Iraqi scientists to consent to private interviews with the U.N. inspectors. So far, the scientists have refused.

The Iraqi government yesterday said the United Nations had asked to interview three scientists today. At least six others have refused to be interviewed without an Iraqi official present.

A senior official in Washington told AP that the Bush administration is considering extending the inspections in an effort to ward off mounting criticism at home and abroad that the United States is rushing toward war with Iraq.

Some of that criticism has come from Germany, where Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder yesterday claimed "growing support" in Europe for his country's position.

But Mr. Schroeder insisted that Germany's toughened stance against war "won't destroy the German-American relationship" as his nation takes over the Security Council presidency Feb. 1.

A decision by the Bush administration on supporting extended inspections and putting off military action will be based on whether the inspections are productive, said the senior U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The official said the decision also will be based on whether Mr. Blix and Mr. ElBaradei offer new evidence to the council.

The U.N. specialists returned to Iraq in November, four years after Saddam kicked out inspectors. Their goal: to search for evidence of weapons of mass destruction under a Security Council resolution creating a tough new inspections regime and promising "serious consequences" if Iraq did not fully comply and cooperate.

Like Mr. ElBaradei, Mr. Blix is expected to praise the access accorded to inspectors. But he increasingly has criticized Baghdad over the past week for failings that include blocking inspectors from using an American-made U-2 reconnaissance plane.

The inspectors' reports could play a pivotal role in Washington's justification for swift military action.

Mr. Bush has accused Saddam of toying with the inspectors and the international community. But France, Germany and Russia have urged that the inspectors be given more time and argued for deferring any attack on Iraq.

Mr. Blix will spend the weekend working on his presentation, which will build on an assessment he presented to the council Jan. 9. In the earlier report, he said inspectors had not found any "smoking gun" in Iraq.

Since then, his teams have uncovered 16 warheads, which he said Iraq didn't adequately account for in its 12,000-page arms declaration. Inspectors also uncovered some 3,000 pages of documents at the home of an Iraqi scientist, some of which Mr. Blix said should have been mentioned in the weapons declaration.

Mr. Blix said tests continued on some of the warheads. None of the results, however, will be detailed in his report to the council.

"This is far too technical a matter to bring up unless we find something sensational in a sample, but I have not had such a report yet," he said.

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