- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 29, 2003

UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 29 (UPI) — The top U.N. weapons inspectors returned to the Security Council on Wednesday to answer questions posed by members after their Iraq briefings earlier in the week behind closed doors.

Following responses by chief weapons inspector Hans Blix and Executive Director Mohammed ElBaradei of the International Atomic Energy Agency, members of the panel began stating their official reactions to the inspectors reports delivered Monday, diplomatic sources told United Press International.

Before breaking late for lunch, the sources said, 10 of the 15-member council spoke. Nearly all supported continuation of inspections but also nearly all called for more "proactive cooperation" by Iraq with inspectors.

Only France and Germany were able to confirm their foreign ministers would attend the Feb. 5 intelligence presentation on Iraq by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, as announced by U.S. President George Bush during his State of the Union address to Congress on Tuesday night.

Although Iraq is not a member of the council and not allowed to sit in on closed-door consultations about it, the permanent representative of Iraq, Ambassador Mohammed Aldouri, showed up outside the council chambers.

Stepping before the microphones awaiting comments from emerging council members, Aldouri delivered Baghdad's reaction to the State of the Union, refusing to take any questions in English, only Arabic.

"Last night we heard business as usual from President Bush," he said, adding "We have heard the same from other American officials in the past few days. The bottom line is one, you can accuse as much as you like, but cannot provide one piece of evidence."

Aldouri said recent inspections "dispelled reports" by the British and the United States that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. He quoted from the inspectors' Monday report, 'We found no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.' They are their words, not mine."

Asserting that Iraq had already complied with all Security Council resolutions, he told reporters, "In spite of that, we are reaching out to the international community, saying we will go a step farther and proactively cooperate with inspectors to prove that these baseless allegations are nothing but fabrications."

However, Ambassador Inocencio Arias of Spain disagreed.

Without hearing Aldouri's remarks, Arias emerged to tell reporters he expected more cooperation from the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein following passage of Resolution 1441 on Nov. 8, which authorized the inspectors' return.

"It isn't a question of opening some door," the veteran Madrid envoy said of the cooperation expected.

"It isn't a question of offering some tea to the inspectors," he said. It's a question of offering active cooperation.

"Then we see the report of Blix and we can mention 20 occasions, 20, where Blix says that he (Saddam) is not cooperating; that he is cooperating in a funny way; that he is omitting something; that he may be hiding something on 20 occasions, two months after the United Nations — not the United States, not Tom Cruise, the United Nations — told him you must cooperate actively, actively and seriously," said the animated ambassador. "The United Nations, two months ago!

"So, we thought that this time (he) must be convinced to do the job properly and seriously and so we found 20 occasions, and they are not trivial matters," Arias continued, speaking to reporters. "You see the occasions, for example, you see that 6,500 chemical bombs that have disappeared.

"In which country in the world can 6,500 — not one or two, three or five — 6,500 bombs disappear?" he asked, without waiting for an answer.

Later, U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte was asked why the weapons inspectors were not able to find any weapons if the United States was providing intelligence.

Washington's envoy replied, "I think we've been sharing useful information with them. I think it has enabled them to focus their work. But again … it is not for the inspectors to go under every rock in Iraq and unearth weapons that the Iraqis may have hidden.

"The burden of proof in this resolution is definitely on Iraq itself to come forward and do two things: one, to fully and completely declare its weapons holdings, and secondly, to cooperate fully, unconditionally, immediately and proactively with the inspectors," Negroponte said.

"We are convinced that Iraq maintains and continues to pursue its WMD (weapons of mass destruction) programs," he said. "Clearly Secretary Powell wouldn't offer, and the president wouldn't have offered, to have Secretary Powell come and make this briefing next Wednesday if we didn't believe this were the case."

Ambassador Sergei Lavrov of Russia was asked, "What evidence will Colin Powell have to present that will convince you that war is warranted?"

He replied, "Convincing."

When asked to be more exact, the usually suave Lavrov appeared slightly vexed and said, "Are you seriously asking me this question? I haven't, I, we will like to see undeniable proof, OK?"

When a U.S. official, who asked not to be identified, was asked what could be expected in Powell's council briefing, he said, "It's not going to be totally new, but some of it will be new," adding, "We've got some decisive days ahead of us, and read into when I say decisive days."

Pushed further, he said, "We are planning and hoping to be able to provide at some point visual aids. We have no idea in what form. … The first determination is what can we share and how what we're going to share needs to come out in the best format."

He apparently was expressing concerns over different levels of security.

Asked about a second resolution to authorize a British-U.S. led attack on Iraq, the official replied, "I think that's not in our realm at this point."

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