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.