- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 9, 2003

UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 9 (UPI) — The chief U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq briefed the U.N. Security Council Thursday on Baghdad's 12,000-page weapons of mass destruction declaration submitted last month and on its cooperation with their inspectors, and said no "smoking gun" has yet been found.

However, chief inspector Hans Blix, chairman of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, described the Dec. 8 declaration as "rich in volume but poor in new information about weapons issues and practically devoid of new evidence on such issues."

The briefing by Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, executive director of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency of the United Nations, came before a scheduled Jan. 19-20 visit to Baghdad. The two officials are also mandated to report to the council Jan. 27 on the progress of inspections.

They said the Jan. 27 date was not a deadline, but a benchmark for a report.

"We are inching forward with implementation of our tasks," said El Baradei, who added that both he and Blix told the council "we need more proactive support on the part of Iraq to be able to move quickly to implement our mandate.

"We also indicated that we need more actionable information on the part of governments and we committed ourselves to intensify the process so we can achieve results as soon as we can."

This last remark appeared aimed at Washington and London, which until at least recently had been reluctant to share intelligence with inspectors.

Blix said much of the declaration's supporting documents were the same as those provided in previous "Full, Final and Complete Declarations" or obtained by the inspection agency preceding UNMOVIC. He said the new documents did not seem to contribute to the resolution of outstanding questions.

"Evidently, if we had found any 'smoking gun' we would have reported it," Blix told the panel of 15. "Similarly if we had met a denial of access or other impediment to our inspections we would have reported it."

Blix later told reporters the declaration didn't even answer previously posed questions and that "the Iraqis could have looked at those questions and could have answered better. So we are not satisfied."

The United States was also not satisfied.

After the briefing, John Negroponte, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, criticized Iraq for not "proactively" cooperating with the inspectors operating under the Nov. 8 Security Council Resolution 1441 authorizing their return for the first time in four years.

"There is still no evidence that Iraq has fundamentally changed its approach from one of deceit to a genuine attempt to be forthcoming in meeting the council's demand that it disarm," he said. "The declaration represents a deliberate effort to deceive by material omissions that in our view constitute a further material breach."

Washington has previously said Baghdad was in material breach of the resolution, which itself said Iraq was in continuing material breach of previous council mandates.

Ambassador Sergei Lavrov of Russia, the closest nation to what could be called an ally among the permanent five, veto-wielding council members — Britain, China, France Russia and the United States — saw the briefing in a slightly different light.

"I do believe that this should be seen as a professional exercise, done by professional people who are presenting their views as they go and that this should not really warrant some political agitation around briefings like this one," said Moscow's envoy. "We will be supporting them and we have full confidence in what they are doing."

Lavrov added that Blix and ElBaradei "are encouraged with the access. They clarified some questions. They are clarifying some other questions. They still have no answers to yet another set of questions and they are going to Baghdad where they would continue this work."

Mikhail Wehbe, the U.N. representative from Syria, Iraq's neighbor and the sole Arab member on the Security Council, said his nation continued to sit out discussion of the declaration because it was not provided the full declaration but only a sanitized version. Only the permanent five members, all nuclear nations, got the full declaration.

It had been agreed by the majority in the council that material in the declaration could contribute to breaching non-proliferation treaties.

Wehbe said that as far as the inspections were going additional time was needed.

Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock of Britain said he learned from the briefing that "what I would call passive cooperation of Iraq has been good in terms of access and other procedural issues but there is no doubt from the flavor of (the Blix and ElBAradei) presentations the proactive cooperation that we have been looking for on substance for Iraq has not been forthcoming."

He said Iraq needed to cooperate in a way that would clear up any questions in the minds of the inspectors.

"Iraq is missing an important opportunity to clear up those remaining questions which the declaration has failed to deal with and a number of members of the council were worried as the United Kingdom is worried by Iraq missing that opportunity," he said. "As the days go by I think that failure of Iraq proactively to cooperate, if that is continued, will become an increasingly serious matter."

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