Hans Blix: Iraq destroyed WMD 10 years ago

Former UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix now believes Iraq destroyed its weapons of mass destruction 10 years ago and that intelligence agencies were wrong in their weapons assessment that led to war.

In an interview with Australian radio from Sweden, Blix said the search for evidence of biological, chemical or nuclear weapons would probably only uncover documents at best.

"The more time that has passed, the more I think it's unlikely that anything will be found," Blix said in the interview, which was broadcast on Wednesday.

"I'm certainly more and more to the conclusion that Iraq has, as they maintained, destroyed almost all of what they had in the summer of 1991," Blix said.

In 1991, the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) found what it called a secret nuclear weapons program in Iraq. It spent the next seven years dismantling Baghdad's nuclear capability, until its inspectors were thrown out of Iraq.

Before ordering the invasion that toppled President Saddam Hussein, President Bush referred to an imminent threat posed by Iraqi weapons of mass destruction as a prime justification for war.

"In the beginning they talked about weapons concretely, and later on they talked about weapons programs...maybe they'll find some documents of interest," Blix said.

Blix spent three years searching for Iraqi chemical, biological and ballistic missiles as head of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission.

U.N. inspectors left Iraq in March this year as American and British forces prepared to invade. Calls for their reinstatement have been denied, with the U.S. occupation authorities preferring instead to set up their own body, the Iraq Survey Group.

After more than five months of searching, no weapons of mass destruction have been found by the Iraq Survey Group, which consists of about 1,500 experts.

U.S. officials said in July that the search had uncovered documents pointing to a program to develop such weapons.

But the U.S. media network ABC News reported on Monday that a draft report by the Iraq Survey Group provides no solid evidence that Iraq had such arms when the United States invaded.

The U.S. government has consistently said the search for weapons of mass destruction will take time and that it is confident evidence will eventually be uncovered.

Source: agencies

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