Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Saturday, February 15, 2003

UN Inspectors Present Mixed Picture of Iraq's Disarmament Efforts

Chief UN arms inspectors presented a mixed picture Friday of Iraq's disarmament efforts in their reports to the Security Council, leaving council members deeply divided over the use of force to disarm the Arab country.


Chief UN arms inspectors presented a mixed picture Friday of Iraq's disarmament efforts in their reports to the Security Council, leaving council members deeply divided over the use of force to disarm the Arab country.

Hans Blix, executive chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) charged with the task of inspecting chemical and biological weapons and ballistic missiles, listed recent improvements in Iraq's cooperation with inspectors but said they were still not enough.

Presenting an update to the council on arms inspections in Iraq, Blix voiced concern that Iraq has still not accounted for many banned arms, but he said disarmament can be achieved.

He said that so far, the UNMOVIC had not found any weapons of mass destruction, except a small number of chemical munitions thatshould have been declared and destroyed.

"Another matter, and one of great significance, is that many proscribed weapons and items are not accounted for," he said, calling on Iraq to clear up the situation. "If they exist, they should be presented for destruction. If they do not exist, credible evidence to that effect should be presented."

Blix said his teams has not yet been able to determine how many illegal weapons Iraq still has. "How much, if any, is left to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and related proscribed items and programs?" he asked.

Blix said the UNMOVIC missile experts concluded unanimously that, based on the data provided by Iraq, the two declared variants of the Al Samoud 2 missile are capable of exceeding 150 kilometers in range and therefore violate UN restrictions.

Referring to the papers presented by Iraq regarding anthrax andgrowth material, the nerve agent VX and missile production, Blix said although no new evidence was provided and no open issues wereclosed through the papers, the presentation of such papers could be indicative of a more active attitude focusing on important openissues.

He also said Iraq's presentation of a list of witnesses for interview "appears useful and pertains to cooperation on substance."

Blix did not ask for more time but indicated that inspections would continue. He said the UNMOVIC has informed Iraq of its intention to start using the U-2 surveillance aircraft early next week and is in the process of working out modalities for the use of the French Mirage aircraft starting late next week and for the drones supplied by the German government.

"The offer from Russia of an Antonov aircraft, with night vision capabilities, is a welcome one and is next on our agenda for further improving UNMOVIC's and IAEA's technical capabilities," he said.

He said the time needed to disarm Iraq through inspections could still be "short" so long as Baghdad provides effective cooperation.

Blix said, "Today, three months after the adoption of resolution 1441, the period of disarmament through inspection could still be short, if immediate, active and unconditional cooperation with UNMOVIC and IAEA were to be forthcoming."

Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency charged with the task of nuclear inspections in Iraq, said in his update to the Security Council that his teams have not found any evidence to date that Iraq is restarting its nuclear program. But he added that several important questions remain unanswered and his investigation is ongoing.

In an apparent nod to a French proposal to beef up and continueinspections to avert war, ElBaradei told the Security Council thathe intends to increase the number of inspectors and support staff."We will also be adding more analysts and translators to support analysis of documents and other inspection findings."

Blix also said UNMOVIC "is still expanding its capabilities, both in terms of numbers of staff and technical resources."

The reports presented by Blix and ElBaradei apparently providedfodder for council members that favor continued inspections to disarm Iraq peacefully.

Foreign ministers from France, Russia and China, among other speakers, viewed the reports as showing that inspections in Iraq are working and should be allowed to continue.

"The use of force against Iraq is not justified today," said French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin. "There is an alternative to war, and that is to disarm Iraq through inspections," de Villepin was given a rare applause in the council chamber when he said that "a premature recourse to the military option would have heavy consequences."

However, United States Secretary of State Colin Powell said Iraq was playing "tricks" on the rest of the world and insisted "the threat of force must remain" as Iraq has not complied with itsinternational obligations.

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