- The Washington Times - Monday, January 27, 2003

UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 27 (UPI) — The U.N. chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, reported Monday to the Security Council that "Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance … of the disarmament which was demanded of it," saying significant questions remain about Iraq's ability to produce weapons of mass destruction.

"These reports do not contend that weapons of mass destruction remain in Iraq, but nor do they exclude that possibility," he told the 15-member panel. "They point to lack of evidence and inconsistencies, which raise question marks, which must be straightened out, if weapons dossiers are to be closed and confidence is to arise."

However, Mohamed ElBaradei, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and the chief nuclear inspector, told the Security Council that he found "no evidence Iraq has revived its nuclear weapons program since the elimination of the program in the 1990s" although there were some open questions.

Iraq "appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance — not even today — of the disarmament which was demanded of it and which it needs to carry out to win the confidence of the world and to live in peace," said Blix.

Nonetheless, Blix and ElBaradei asked for more time to continue inspections to help avoid a war.

The council first demanded Baghdad relinquish its weapons of mass destruction in 1991, a requirement most recently restated Nov. 8 last year. Resolution 1441, passed unanimously that day, threatened Iraq with unspecified "serious consequences" if it did not disarm. Monday's report was the first formal assessment by U.N. inspectors of Iraq's record in cooperating.

Reactions among the permanent five, veto-wielding, members of the council were predictable with Britain and the United States continuing to put the pressure on Baghdad, while France, Russia and China called for more time.

In Washington, U.S. officials said the time for Iraq to disarm voluntarily is fast coming to an end, and threatened to use force if necessary.

"Iraq's refusal to disarm … still threatens international peace and security," Secretary of State Colin Powell said at the State Department.

"When someone will not accept a peaceful solution by doing their part of creating a peaceful solution, one must never rule out the use of force to implement the will of the international community," Powell said.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said before Blix and ElBaradei each presented their reports to the council that "if they asked for more time, they should be given it."

Annan added quickly, "I'm not saying forever, but they do need time to get their work done, and I suspect the council will allow for that time to be done."

In Washington, officials said that they expected inspections to continue, but that they would be consulting with their allies on the best course of action.

Iraqi Ambassador Mohammed Aldouri, not allowed to speak in the open council session, told reporters, "Iraq has fully complied with all its obligations according to Resolution 1441.

"Iraq provided a full and complete declaration and since the 27th of November 2002. Iraq has actively cooperated with Resolution 1441 by facilitating interviews and granting immediate, unconditional unrestricted access for the IAEA and UNMOVIC," he added, referring to the Vienna, Austria-based agency and to the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission.

But in the 60-day update of the activities of his commission, which is mandated to search for chemical, biological and other weapons, Blix said that, while Iraq had provided access "to all sites we have wanted to inspect, and with one exception, it has been prompt," cooperation had been more on process, "notably access," than on substance.

"If inspection is not a game of 'catch as catch can,'" he said of substance, "it is a process of verification for the purpose of creating confidence. It is not built on the premise of trust — rather it is designed to lead to trust."

UNMOVIC has information which conflicts with the Iraqi claims that it had produced the deadly VX nerve agent only on a pilot scale, in small amounts and in such poor quality that it was never made into weapons and was subsequently destroyed, Blix said. As for the recent discovery of a number of 122-mm chemical rocket warheads, he said that finding shows that Iraq "needs to make more effort to ensure that its declaration is currently accurate."

The executive chairman suggested that Iraq could provide more documentation as well as an accurate list of personnel involved in the country's past weapons program as a way to clarify several questions. He noted that a recent search of the home of a scientist turned up a box of some 3,000 pages of documents after Baghdad had claimed that it had no more papers to turn over.

"Any further sign of concealment of documents would be serious," he said. "The Iraqi side committed itself at our recent talks to encourage persons to accept access also to private sites. There can be no sanctuaries for proscribed items, activities or documents. A denial of prompt access to any site would be a very serious matter."

Blix said that of the 11 people asked to submit to questioning, their replies have invariably been that they would only speak with a Baghdad representative present.

The top nuclear inspector said more time was needed for a conclusive assessment that Baghdad has not resumed its nuclear program.

"Barring exceptional circumstances, and provided there is sustained proactive cooperation by Iraq, we should be able within the next few months to provide credible assurance that Iraq has no nuclear weapons program," ElBaradei said. "These few months would be a valuable investment in peace because they could help us avoid a war."

Inspections have focused primarily on Iraq's attempts to obtain high-strength aluminum tubes, and the question of whether the tubes could be used for the manufacture of nuclear centrifuges, ElBaradei said, noting that Iraqi authorities have indicated that their unsuccessful attempts to procure the aluminum tubes related to a program to reverse-engineer conventional rockets.

"From our analysis to date, it appears that the aluminum tubes would be consistent with the purpose stated by Iraq and, unless modified, would not be suitable for manufacturing centrifuges; however, we are still investigating this issue," he said.

As for reports of Iraqi efforts to import uranium after 1991, the Iraqi authorities have denied any such attempts, ElBaradei said, adding that the agency would continue to pursue this issue since it currently did not have enough information.

He called for Baghdad to shift to more "proactive support" by voluntarily "providing documentation, people and other evidence that will assist in filling in the remaining gaps in our information."

ElBaradei also urged Baghdad to make every effort to be fully transparent, with a demonstrated willingness to resolve issues rather than requiring pressure to do so.

U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte said, "Nothing we have heard today gives us hope that Iraq intends to fully comply" with Security Council disarmament resolutions.

"I think what we've heard is a catalogue of unresolved questions," said Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock of Britain, Washington's chief ally. "It's quite clear to all members of the Security Council that this is not going to be resolved peacefully through the U.N. process unless we have 100 percent cooperation from Iraq.

"What I would call Grade A cooperation is what Hans Blix has called the South African model, where you don't just have access and all the process allowed by the inspectors, you have guidance to where the materials and the documents are, the presentation of where they are, and the offering up for destruction of what the Iraqis have," London's envoy told reporters. "That contrasts with passive cooperation or partial passive cooperation, or the semblance of cooperation, which is accompanied by the hindering, the obstruction of what is going on in Iraq. This is not what we are looking for."

Zhang Yishan, the deputy Chinese ambassador, said the two reports indicated "the whole process is moving forward."

He also said both men raised some questions and "there are some doubts to be cleared" and the Chinese "strongly urge that Iraq should be more cooperative with the U.N. inspectors."

He said, "The job has not been completed. We share the view of many that this process needs to continue and more time is needed for the inspectors."

Sergei Lavrov, the Russian ambassador, said there were some "questions that have to be studied in the capitals" and the substance of the briefing would be discussed among council members Wednesday.

However, he believed the Iraqis were "trying to cooperate actively which should be encouraged and supported."

Lavrov said UNMOVIC and the IAEA "don't have any evidence that Iraq has resumed its WMD programs nor can they assert that all these programs have been stopped."

Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere of France, this month's rotating president of the Security Council, said: "We collectively made the choice of inspections. So far, inspections on the ground are going on without difficulties. They have already produced some results. But there are still question marks.

"This is the reason why Iraq must cooperate more actively," he said. "The commitments made by the Iraqi authorities during Blix and ElBaradei's recent visit to Baghdad are a step in the right direction. From now on, these commitments must be implemented."

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