- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 30, 2003

JOHANNESBURG — When President F.W. de Klerk stood in front of Parliament in 1993 and confirmed that South Africa had built, and then dismantled, nuclear weapons, he immediately invited inspectors to verify his claims.
Within months, International Atomic Energy Agency officials had finished their inspections and praised the "transparency and openness of the South African authorities."
Now, U.N. inspectors and U.S. officials are using those smooth and swift inspections to chide Iraq for its refusal to fully cooperate with officials looking into its chemical and biological weapons program.
"Unlike South Africa, which decided on its own to eliminate its nuclear weapons and welcomed inspection as a means of creating confidence in its disarmament, Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance — not even today — of the disarmament, which was demanded of it," chief weapons inspector Hans Blix said Monday in his report to the United Nations.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell reinforced that point, using South Africa as an example of "real disarmament."
"We see none of the telltale signs of real disarmament, honest disarmament, in Iraq," he said Monday.
Others say the political situations in the two countries make it difficult to expect similar cooperation."South Africa had grasped disarmament as an opportunity to speed up its acceptance into the international community," said Greg Mills, director of the South African Institute of International Affairs.
Iraq has a more adversarial relationship with the West and could lose its standing in the Middle East if it is seen to be capitulating, he said.
South Africa's nuclear program began sometime in the 1970s. It was intended as a deterrent against neighboring states opposed to apartheid and Cold War instability that was fueling the war in nearby Angola.
"Should the war spread, the thinking was maybe we could say to the Europeans or the Americans or the other developed countries, 'Look. You'd better come and intervene, or we could use this stuff," former Foreign Minister Pik Botha said Tuesday.
In the late 1980s, the government decided there was no benefit to keeping the weapons and began dismantling them, Mr. Botha said.
Mr. De Klerk's announcement — that South Africa had six bombs and a seventh partially assembled — came as South Africa began to be welcomed back into the international community. The government had lifted a ban on the African National Congress opposition party, released anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela from prison and begun preparations for the nation's first all-race elections.
Mr. Botha said the decision to open the program to inspections was made to cement the government's international acceptance.
thers believe it was trying to reassure the world the bomb would not fall into the hands of the African National Congress government, which was sure to win the 1994 elections.
Waldo Stumpf, former chief executive of South Africa's Atomic Energy Corp., said accusations about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction after the 1991 Persian Gulf war may have inspired the move.
"Mr. de Klerk felt that the world would not understand the difference between South Africa and Iraq," he said.
After Mr. de Klerk's announcement, the government told Mr. Stumpf to be completely open and cooperative with the roughly 20 inspectors as they traveled through the country inspecting nuclear plants, test sites and uranium stocks, he said.
"Our mandate was that we should try to gain maximum credibility with the inspectors," he said.
There were actually two inspections of South Africa. The first began in 1991, when the country signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the International Atomic Energy Agency sent "safeguard officials" to account for all its nuclear material, not to look for evidence of a defunct weapons program.
The government cooperated fully with those inspections, but did not reveal its weapons program.


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