Blix: Iraq not cooperating with U.N.


Published: Tuesday, January 28, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 28, 2003 at 12:22 a.m.
UNITED NATIONS - Hans Blix, chief U.N. weapons inspector, on Monday gave a broadly negative report on Iraq's cooperation with two months of inspections, providing ammunition to the Bush administration's campaign to disarm Iraq by force if necessary.
"Iraq appears not to have come to genuine acceptance - not even today - of the disarmament which was demanded of it and which it needs to carry out to win the confidence of the world and live in peace," Blix said, summing up a grim 15-page litany on Iraq's chemical and biological weapons programs. His report contained information that often appeared to echo the administration's view that Saddam Hussein will never disarm unless compelled to do so.
After Blix had spoken, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said in Washington: "The issue is not how much more time the inspectors need to search in the dark. It is how much more time Iraq should be given to turn on the lights and to come clean. And the answer is: Not much more time. Iraq's time for choosing peaceful disarmament is fast coming to an end."
Powell's allusion to the limited time left for Iraq to avoid war came at the start of a critical few days in which President Bush will present his case for disarming Saddam in his State of the Union address tonight, before consulting with allies including Tony Blair, the British prime minister, later in the week. Then, and only then, Powell suggested, will the president make his plans clear.
Mohamed ElBaradei, the chief inspector for atomic weapons, was less critical of Iraq on Monday, reporting that his team had found no evidence so far that Iraq had attempted to revive its nuclear weapons program and appealing to the council for a "few months" more to complete his work.
The clash within the 15-member Security Council over the duration of the inspections sharpened Monday. The U.S. ambassador, John D. Negroponte, insisted they had already gone on long enough to demonstrate that Iraq had no intention of disclosing its secret arms to the inspectors. "There is nothing in either presentation that would give us hope that Iraq has ever intended to fully comply," he said.
Other veto-bearing council powers, including France, Russia and China, contended that the inspections still were working and should be allowed to continue. Britain, Washington's closest ally, expressed support for a German proposal that the inspectors report back to the council again on February 14.
Blix's sweeping and detailed critique of Iraq's failure to demonstrate with documents, interviews and other evidence that it had destroyed its prohibited weapons appeared to put new pressure on France, Germany, and other nations that have resisted early military action, to respond more forcefully to Baghdad's noncompliance.
Iraq heightened the confrontation Monday by bluntly rejecting all of the inspectors' criticism.
"Iraq has complied fully with all its obligations" under Resolution 1441, the measure that set up the inspections, Iraqi Ambassador Mohammed A. Aldouri said in his most categorical dismissal of the inspections since they began in November.
The Security Council nations are due to give their official evaluations of the chief inspectors' reports on Wednesday.
Digressions detailed ElBaradei called on the council to continue the inspections as a "valuable investment in peace." Blix skirted the matter, noting simply that his team remains "at the disposal" of the council.
The Bush administration did not succeed, after an intensive campaign of speechmaking by senior officials in recent days, in persuading other council nations to take the chief inspectors' report Monday as the opening of broad debate on whether to authorize war.
But Blix's powerfully critical assessment forced doubting council members to confront Iraq's efforts to thwart or hamper the inspectors.
In an open council meeting Monday morning and a closed session in the late afternoon, Blix said that despite Iraq's denials, his team found "indications" that Iraq had created weapons using the nerve agent VX, which he described as "one of the most toxic ever developed."
He said that Iraq had provided contradictory information about its VX stocks in a 12,000-page declaration of its arms programs that Baghdad presented on Dec. 7.
So far, he added, Iraq had failed to account for 6,500 chemical bombs that could contain as much as 1,000 tons of chemical agent.
While Iraq has dismissed as insignificant the inspectors' finding on Jan. 16 of 12 empty chemical warheads in a recently built bunker, Blix said the rockets "could be the tip of a submerged iceberg."
The discovery "shows that Iraq needs to make more effort to ensure that its declaration is currently accurate," Blix said. He added that his inspectors also had found at another site a "laboratory quantity" of thiodiglycol, which he described as a precursor of mustard gas.
Missiles questioned BlixIraq has declared that it produced 8,500 liters of anthrax for biological warfare before the Persian Gulf War in 1991, Blix said, and claimed to have destroyed all of it unilaterally that year.
"Iraq has provided little evidence for this production and no convincing evidence for its destruction," he said. There were "strong indications" that Iraq had made more anthrax than it declared, and "at least some of this was retained after the declared destruction date."
In a letter delivered to the council on Sunday, Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri said that Baghdad had fully declared all of the so-called growth media, which is used to develop biological weapons, which it had imported.
"This is not evidence," Blix said curtly. He noted that the growth media could be used to produce as much as 5,000 liters of concentrated anthrax.
He also reported that Iraq is building two missiles, the Al Samoud 2 and the Al Fatah, which he said seemed clearly to violate U.N. restrictions limiting missiles to a range of 150 kilometers. He said he had asked Iraq to cease test flights of the missiles.
Iraq has refurbished a missile plant that had been previously destroyed by weapons inspectors, and has illegally imported chemicals that could be used for weapons, Blix said.
He also reported that Iraq "is not so far complying with our request" to use his team's U-2 high altitude photographic surveillance plane. Iraqi officials had tried to force the United Nations to cancel the no-fly zones over northern and southern Iraq, which are patrolled by United States and British warplanes, while the U-2 flew there, and tried to persuade Blix to help them buy special radar to monitor the U-2 flights.
Strong language given Blix had especially strong language for what he called "disturbing incidents and harassment," including charges by Iraqi officials that his inspectors are spies.
"Iraq knows they do not serve intelligence purposes, and Iraq should say so," he said.
In his much less confrontational report, ElBaradei, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said that his team had visited nuclear-related buildings where satellite photography showed new structures and found no new nuclear activities there.
Responding to this finding, Ari Fleischer, the White House spokesman, said Saddam's biological and chemical weapons capability alone could kill millions of people.
Critics want time On Capitol Hill, Democratic leaders have become increasingly insistent that Bush give the inspections more time or provide firm evidence as to why Iraq poses an immediate threat. They urged Bush on Monday to avoid a rush toward a war.
"If we have proof of nuclear and biological weapons, why don't we show that proof to the world, as President Kennedy did 40 years ago when he sent Adlai Stevenson to the United Nations to show the world U.S. photographs of offensive missiles in Cuba?" said Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota, the Democratic minority leader.
Reps. John M. Spratt Jr. of South Carolina and Ike Skelton of Missouri, the senior Democrats on the House Armed Services Committee, sent Bush a letter Monday urging him to "weigh carefully the advantages of allowing the inspections to continue."
Negroponte said: "In the days ahead, we believe the council, and its member governments, must face its responsibilities," indicating that the United States is still considering pushing very soon for a debate over war.
Such a date for a further interim report would allow the United States and Britain to continue preparations for a war in late February or March while demonstrating to skeptical allies, including France, that they are allowing the inspections to continue for now and are not rushing to judgment.
German proposal finds support Most council nations supported the German proposal Monday.
Britain's ambassador to the United Nations, Jeremy Greenstock, spoke to the media right after Negroponte, making the differences notable. The British envoy said that none of the council's discussions this week would be "conclusive," and he made no suggestion that the inspections were coming to an end, although he did insist that Iraq needed to give "Grade A cooperation."
Russian Ambassador Sergei Lavrov waved aside Blix's criticism.
"We do believe that the inspectors are doing a very useful job and they must continue," he said. China echoed this view.
"Since we have started this process and there is no clear reason to stop it, we should continue," said Zhang Yishan, the deputy ambassador.
Even as Blix was reporting, senior Pentagon officials said troops and heavy equipment continued to flow into the Persian Gulf region.
"The report isn't a surprise," one senior military official said. "There's been no change in the pace of our deployments."

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

Comments are currently unavailable on this article

▲ Return to Top