- The Washington Times - Friday, January 31, 2003

From combined dispatches
Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix said yesterday there has been no sign of increased cooperation from Iraq since the inspectors' report to the U.N. Security Council on Monday.
Mr. Blix said there was also no evidence to suggest the Iraqis were granting inspectors greater access to key scientists they want to interview regarding Iraq's arms programs.
Speaking to Britain's Channel Four Television News, he said there was still time for Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to cooperate.
Asked whether the Iraqis had been more cooperative since Monday, when Mr. Blix outlined the inspectors' latest findings and thoughts on Iraq, Mr. Blix said: "No, not yet."
"There has been a good deal of helpful attitude from the Iraqi side on what we call process, that is to say on opening their sites. There has been no denial of access," he said in an interview from Washington broadcast in Britain.
"But what has been missing has been what we call cooperation on substance their duty to try to provide us with explanations and with evidence on what may remain of their weapons of mass destruction."
Mr. Blix's comments came just as Iraq said it had invited top U.N. weapons inspectors to Baghdad for talks before they report back to the Security Council again in mid-February.
An Iraqi Foreign Ministry statement said Saddam's adviser, Amir al-Saadi, had sent an invitation to Mr. Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog, to visit Baghdad before Feb. 10.
In Baghdad, two more Iraqi specialists refused requests yesterday to submit to private interviews in the U.N. search for signs of banned weapons in Iraq, the U.N. inspection agency reported.
A total of 15 individuals, most believed to be biological, chemical or nuclear experts, have now declined to be questioned by U.N. inspectors without the presence of an Iraqi government official or other witness. Three of those each declined two requests.
The two unidentified specialists "showed up with a person at the agreed hotel and insisted on having the individual with them during an interview. Consequently, no private interviews took place," said Hiro Ueki, Baghdad spokesman for the U.N. inspection agency.
Iraqi officials say that under an agreement reached Jan. 20 with chief U.N. inspectors, they are encouraging scientists to submit to unmonitored questioning. But they said all feel that having a witness would protect them against later distortion of their answers.
U.S. officials say Saddam has threatened to kill any scientist who talks with U.N. inspectors unsupervised.
After its defeat in the 1991 Persian Gulf war, Iraq was forbidden by U.N. resolutions to maintain programs for chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.
In a separate development, Iraq's ruling party newspaper dismissed President Bush's State of the Union speech as a "Hollywood farce" and said he offered no new evidence to support an array of accusations about hidden Iraqi weapons.
"It isn't Iraq that is misleading in this. It is Bush," said an editorial in Al-Thawra.
Saddam assured top military commanders in a meeting televised late Wednesday that they would repel any U.S. attack.
"Iraq is not Afghanistan," the Iraqi president reminded them. He said well-supplied Iraqi defense lines would "absorb the momentum of the attack, destroy it and defeat it."
Bush administration officials have said for months they have solid evidence that Iraq still has banned weapons that have not been disclosed.
They say Secretary of State Colin L. Powell will present the evidence next week to the U.N. Security Council.
On their daily rounds yesterday, U.N. inspectors visited Baghdad's 17th of April missile parts factory, named for a battle in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war. Inspectors also visited the capital's Central Public Health Laboratory and other sites.


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