Blix and El-Baradei brief UN on weapons inspections process

10 January 2003
No evidence has been found in Iraq to provoke the 'serious consequences' threatened by UN Resolution 1441, but Baghdad needs to be more 'proactive' in its co-operation, the heads of the UN weapons inspections team reported to the UN Security Council on 9 January. Head of UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (Unmovic) Hans Blix said that there were gaps in the weapons declaration submitted by the Iraqis and that many questions remained unanswered. However, 'we have now been there for some two months and been covering the country in even wider sweeps and we haven't found any smoking guns,' he said. Mohamed el-Baradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and in charge of the hunt for nuclear technologies, illustrated the lack of more active co-operation by the fact that interviews with Iraqi scientists had not been carried out privately, without any government representative. The two men will give their first full report to the Security Council on 27 January.

US spokesmen took a hawkish line on the briefing. US ambassador to the UN, John Negroponte, took the view that the omissions in the Iraqi declaration did constitute a 'material breach' of the UN resolution, while US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters 'the failure of Iraq to co-operate is becoming more and more clear'. Ari Fleischer, White House spokesman, again expressed some scepticism about the ability of the inspections process to discover Iraq's banned weapons, saying: 'the problem with guns that are hidden is you can't see their smoke.' However, the suggestion that a similarly lukewarm verdict from Blix and El-Baradei on 27 January might be used as the trigger for a US-led attack appears unlikely, as since the new year an international consensus against such hasty action has emerged (MEED 9:1:03). UK ambassador to the UN, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, told reporters that the inspectors 'need to build up the intensity of what they're doing - they need more time'.

The potential interview of scientists abroad was dismissed on the same day by leader of Iraq's own weapons monitoring directorate, Hussam Mohammed Amin: 'Nobody is prepared to go outside to make an interview with Unmovic or the IAEA,' he told reporters, although he stayed within the letter of the resolution, saying it was a personal choice for the interviewees. He also revealed that a UN official had raised with him the possibility of taking scientists to Cyprus, which the inspection teams use as a staging post, to be quizzed.

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