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.
A MEED Subscription...
Subscribe or upgrade your current MEED.com package to support your strategic planning with the MENA region’s best source of business information. Proceed to our online shop below to find out more about the features in each package.