- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 11, 2003

The White House yesterday questioned why chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix omitted from his public testimony that Iraq is developing combat drones and cluster bombs capable of unleashing chemical and biological agents.
Those details were contained in Mr. Blix's new written report to the U.N. Security Council that was released yesterday. The report also says Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein continues to deceive inspectors about the fate of chemical and biological weapons, including deadly anthrax.
The head of an anti-Saddam group said Mr. Blix's only motive for leaving out the data in his public testimony Friday was to defeat a pending U.S. resolution to authorize an invasion of Iraq.
"It is hard to believe that Blix's Friday statement was based on this devastating written report," said Randy Scheunemann, president of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, a Washington-based group of current and former U.S. government officials.
"He managed not to mention a new missile type, and a drone, which are clear smoking guns, and he ignored pages of evidence with dozens of examples of Iraqi noncompliance in every facet of their [weapons of mass destruction] programs."
He added: "Blix's only agenda can be enabling Saddam's defense lawyers in Paris to thwart the U.S. in the Security Council."At the White House, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said, "There are outstanding questions, and all members of the Security Council, I think it's safe to say, look forward to hearing the answers."
Asked whether the Bush administration believed that Mr. Blix had deliberately left important items out of his testimony, Mr. Fleischer said, "That's why there are questions, and I'm sure those questions will get answered."
His comment came the same day that agency led by Mr. Blix, the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (Unmovic), released a 173-page report to augment the chief inspector's highly publicized statement before the Security Council.
The Swedish diplomat did not mention the drones or the bombs, both of which are banned under a U.N. cease-fire agreement with Baghdad 12 years ago.
Mr. Blix said in a statement last night that the existence of the pilotless aircraft is not a "smoking gun" and said nothing yet showed that the drones are linked to illegal weapons programs.
"We are investigating what the drones are," he said.
U.S. officials said in private yesterday that the developments show that Iraq is violating U.N. resolutions and perhaps represent the "smoking gun" that might persuade more nations to back President Bush on an invasion of Iraq to topple Saddam.
But the administration remained diplomatic in public, refusing to specifically criticize Mr. Blix.
Outside analysts who support overthrowing Saddam to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction were not as diplomatic.
"The single most devastating discovery that the inspectors have come across was omitted from Blix's verbal discussion at the U.N.," said retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Buster Glosson, who designed the Operation Desert Storm air war during the 1991 Persian Gulf campaign and has written a book, "War with Iraq: Critical Lessons."
"They hid it in the back pages of their report, that being the drones and bombs that have the capacity of dispensing biological and chemical weapons."
On the drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, the written report said, "Recent inspections have also revealed the existence of a drone with a wingspan of 7.45 [meters] that has not been declared by Iraq."
Iraq contends its L-29 drone can travel only 30 miles. But Unmovic says the system can fly more than 95 miles, in violation of U.N. resolutions, and is designed to carry tanks that can spray biological and chemical weapons.
"Here are the inspectors now finding a whole new system of pilotless vehicles that Iraq could be developing for dispersal of chemical and biological weapons, another indication they're still working on that," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.
On the cluster munition, the written report said that video at a test center, Haidar Farms, "shows … personnel conducting tests of a cluster bomb that appears to utilize submunitions based, in part, on 122-mm warhead components.
"Iraq has been vague as to exactly how many field tests with 122-mm rocket warheads occurred and the number of warheads involved," the report says.It also disputes Iraqi assertions, such as the following:
*It destroyed thousands of gallons of anthrax.
Baghdad did not return biological agents to their home facilities after deploying them in the 1991 war.
"It … seems highly probable that the destruction of bulk agent, including anthrax, stated by Iraq to be at Al Hakam in July/August 1991, did not occur," the report says. "Based on all the available evidence, the strong presumption is that about 10,000 liters of anthrax was not destroyed and may still exist."
*It destroyed 15 biological warheads.The report says Iraq's assertions conflicted with physical evidence collected at the supposed destruction site.
"This suggests that some special warheads were retained for a period and, if so, it would be logical to assume that some missiles and associated propellant might also have been retained," the report states.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide