- The Washington Times - Monday, January 27, 2003

UNITED NATIONS — Top weapons inspector Hans Blix on today said Baghdad had not genuinely accepted U.N. resolutions demanding that it disarm, while his counterpart Mohamed ElBaradei said there was no evidence so far that Iraq was reviving its nuclear program and asked for a "few months" to complete the search.
The Bush administration dismissed Iraq cooperation as inadequate, and U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte said he had heard nothing that gave "any hope that Iraq will disarm" voluntarily.
Asked whether the threat from Saddam was imminent, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said, "From the president's point of view, it remains a very grave threat."
Other Security Council members with the same veto power as the United States disagreed.
"The job has not been completed. We share the view of many that this process has not been completed and more time is needed," said China's deputy U.N. ambassador Zhang Yishan. Russian Ambassador Sergey Lavrov said his country strongly supported calls "for inspections to continue."
France's U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sabliere also supported the need for inspections "to go forward…with the objective of Iraq's verifiable disarmament," adding that it could be "several weeks" or "a few months." He said there was strong backing in the 15-member council for additional time.
But Mr. Negroponte said the issue was no longer the inspections process.
"The purpose of this exercise is not inspections but the disarmament of Iraq. Our quarrel is with Iraq's behavior in this process," he said.
In closed-door consultations after the reports, Mr. Negroponte pointedly asked Mr. Blix and Mr. ElBaradei how much time they needed to conclusively determine whether Iraq was complying with its obligations, diplomats told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. The inspectors agreed to return to the council later today with answers to questions from several ambassadors although they said some information may have to wait until Wednesday's meeting.
The differing views on the inspectors' reports could make or break international support for military intervention in Iraq.
Iraqi Ambassador Mohammed al-Douri defended his country's actions. "We open all doors to Mr. Blix and his team. If there is something, he will find it. We have no hidden reports at all."
Mr. ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said so far nuclear inspections of 106 sites had turned up nothing.
"We have to date found no evidence that Iraq has revived its nuclear program since the elimination of the program in the 1990s. However, our work is steadily progressing and should be allowed to run its natural course.
"With our verification system now in place, 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.
"These few months would be a valuable investment in peace because it could help avoid a war," ElBaradei told the Security Council.
In a toughly-worded assessment of Iraq's cooperation with 60 days of inspections, Mr. Blix, head of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, chided the Iraqis for failing to cooperate on substance "in order to bring the disarmament task to completion, through the peaceful process of inspection, and to bring the monitoring task on a firm course."
So far, he said: "Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance, not even today, of the disarmament that was demanded of it." He did not specifically call for more time but made clear that his inspectors have only just begun their work.
Both Mr. Blix and Mr. ElBaradei complained that Iraqi scientists were not submitting to private interviews. But Mr. ElBaradei said the Iraqis were cooperating with his questions and said the process shouldn't be hampered by deadlines.
Under Security Council Resolution 1441, crafted by Washington and adopted by an unanimous council in November, inspectors don't need to prove Iraq is rearming.
Any false statements or omissions in Iraq's arms declaration, coupled with a failure to comply with and cooperate fully in the implementation of the resolution, would place Baghdad in "material breach" of its obligations - a finding that could open the door for war.
Most of the Security Council believes that's a determination they must make based on the inspectors' assessments. The 15 members of the Security Council will reconvene Wednesday, a day after President Bush delivers the State of the Union address, to discuss the inspectors' reports and begin debate on Iraq. In the meantime, Mr. Blix and Mr. ElBaradei will update the council again on Feb. 14.
Mr. Blix said three questions remain unanswered:
-How much illicit weapons material might remain undeclared and intact from before the Persian Gulf War in 1991 and possible thereafter.

-What, if anything was illegally procured or produced.
-How the world can prevent any weapons of mass destruction from being produced or procured in the future.
He noted that Iraq's 12,000 page arms declaration contained little more than old material in the areas of chemical and biological weapons and said his teams now believe Iraq's claims that it was unsuccessful in producing the VX nerve agent, were untrue. "There are indications that the agent was weaponized," Mr. Blix said. Inspectors have also discovered a mustard gas precursor during recent inspections.
On biological weapons, Mr. Blix said Iraq had failed to produce "convincing evidence" that it unilaterally destroyed its anthrax stockpiles and that there are indications that Iraq could have had larger quantities than it reported to inspectors.
Mr. ElBaradei said his teams had concluded that aluminum tubes Iraq had tried to import were earmarked for missile programs and not for a nuclear program, as the Bush administration claimed last fall. But he said the investigation continued.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri said that his nation has cooperated fully with weapons inspectors and he accused the United States and Britain of setting the stage for an unjustified attack.
He said accusations against Iraq by U.S. officials were "all lies to hide America's true intentions" which he said were to take control of his nation's oil resources and protect "America's interests in Israel."
Despite assurances from Iraq that it would encourage its scientists to submit to private interviews, no such interviews have taken place and Baghdad continues to block inspectors from using a U-2 reconnaissance plane that could be helpful in the hunt for weapons of mass destruction.
Mr. Blix noted that Iraq had provided new information "in the fields of missiles and biotechnology," and said he would ask the Iraqis to stop tests of two types of missiles while inspectors determine their actual range and capabilities.

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