- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 28, 2003

NEW YORK Chief U.N. weapons official Hans Blix yesterday sharply rebuked Iraq in his first formal report to the Security Council after two months of inspections, saying Saddam Hussein's government has not disarmed.
"Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance not even today of the disarmament which is demanded of it and which it needs to carry out to the confidence of the world and to live in peace," Mr. Blix told the 15-nation council in remarks televised globally.
U.S. officials responded with sharp criticism for Baghdad, saying it had not cooperated fully with the inspectors and reiterating that the opportunity to avoid war had all but expired.
"The issue is … how much more time Iraq should be given to turn on the lights and to come clean?" Secretary of State Colin L. Powell asked reporters in Washington.
"The answer," he said, "is not much more time. Iraq's time for choosing peaceful disarmament is fast coming to an end."
Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, in an interview with Canada's CBC network after the U.N. meeting, said that his country was prepared to do more to meet the inspectors' demands.
"They're asking Iraq to provide more cooperation. OK, let them say that, for we are doing that," he said.
Mr. Aziz said there were only two areas of dispute between Baghdad and the inspectors: the use of U2 surveillance planes to assist the work of the U.N. teams and the conditions under which Iraqi scientists can be interviewed by the inspectors.
"All other aspects of cooperation have been met, and we promise to be more forthcoming in the future, replying to all their needs in a way that will satisfy them," he said.
With the possibility of war hanging on the inspectors' words, the Security Council meeting was carried live by many television stations around the world. Diplomats crowded the council chambers while peace demonstrators massed amid frigid winds outside U.N. headquarters.
The remarks by Mr. Blix, and another assessment from Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of U.N.-based International Atomic Energy Agency, appeared to bolster the opinions of countries on both sides of a divided Security Council.
The United States and Britain said the arms officials cannot keep "searching in the dark," and other council members said the briefing showed that the inspectors are on the right track and need more time.
The inspectors said Baghdad has not obstructed or delayed efforts to visit a range of sites suspected of being weapons facilities, including factories, mosques, private homes and previously off-limits presidential palaces.
But they also noted that Iraq had not accounted for missing weapons materials and had not made its scientists available for private interviews.
Mr. Blix and Mr. ElBaradei called on Baghdad to offer "immediate, unconditional and active" cooperation while there is still time.
"This proactive engagement on the part of Iraq would be in its own best interest," Mr. ElBaradei said, adding that it is "a window of opportunity that may not remain open for very much longer."
A major frustration for the inspection teams has been the inability to interview, candidly and privately, Iraqi scientists with knowledge of their country's efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction.
Baghdad has said that it cannot compel its citizens to speak to the inspectors.
U.S. and British officials, however, say that no scientist would risk retaliation from Saddam's government by revealing secrets in front of Iraqi officials.
Mohammed Al-Douri, Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations, told reporters after the briefing that his government has done all it could by turning over documents, encouraging scientists to talk to the inspectors and allowing the monitoring teams to go anywhere they wished.
He said it was not necessary to give the scientists assurances of safety because "they are our people, our families, and they won't be harmed."
But the United States remained dubious.
"Nothing we've heard today indicates that Iraq intends to comply with [council resolution] 1441 or any of the dozen resolutions that have preceded it," John D. Negroponte, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told reporters after the inspectors' presentations.
France and Germany, which have been openly critical of Washington's war rhetoric, urged more time for the inspectors.
"The common goal of the Security Council is to fully disarm Iraq, and we hope that this can be done peacefully," said German U.N. Ambassador Gunter Pleuger.
"It's up to Iraq. Never before have the inspectors been so powerful," he added, noting their expanded legitimacy and improved technology.
French U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sabliere said the inspectors should be given at least some weeks and up to two months to hunt down weapons of mass destruction.
In Brussels hours earlier, the European Union forcefully called on Iraq to cooperate with the arms officials and, despite divisions within the bloc, implicitly sought more time for inspections.
"The Iraqi authorities must, as an imperative, provide the inspectors, without delay, with all additional and complete information on questions raised by the international community," foreign ministers from EU member nations said in a statement.
That was about as far as the divided EU could go: The French and Germans, supported by Austria, Belgium, Sweden and Luxembourg, want to see a second council vote, if necessary, to explicitly authorize force.
The British, who closely back the United States and already have deployed troops to the Persian Gulf, would prefer a second resolution but say that they will not be constrained if they can't get one. British Prime Minister Tony Blair is to meet with Mr. Bush at Camp David later this week.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw accused Saddam of "practicing concealment."
"There is clear evidence now that he has made this a charade of an inspection, cooperating on process but not on substance," Mr. Straw said after the EU meeting.
Security Council members discussed the inspectors' assessments yesterday afternoon and will confer on the matter tomorrow as well, after President Bush's State of the Union address.
Another council assessment meeting is expected Feb. 14, at the request of Germany, which presides over the body next month.

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