Blix finds smuggled materials, calls for more time

14 January 2003
Weapons inspectors in Iraq have already found large quantities of illegally imported materials, but have not yet determined whether these are related to banned weapons programmes, head of the UN inspections team Hans Blix said on 14 January. In an interview with the BBC, he also said that fresh intelligence had been passed to the inspectors by the US and Britain to allow them to direct their searches towards suspicious areas. Head of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspections Commission (Unmovic) team on the ground, Dimitris Perrikos, said that visits to these new sites would test Iraqi co-operation. 'It is true the Iraqis are opening doors, but they are opening installations they know we are aware of,' he told Greek daily Ta Nea. Tensions rose between the inspectors and the US earlier in the inspections process, when Washington scorned the process on the basis of intelligence it refused to share. 'I felt in the past that they were a bit like librarians who had books they didn't want to lend to the customer,' said Blix. Despite the evidence of Iraqi defiance of the sanctions regime, and his 9 January briefing to the UN Security Council on the need for more 'proactive' co-operation from Saddam Hussein, Blix expressed concern at the increasing military build-up in the Gulf. 'There is a certain momentum in the build-up and that worries a great many people including myself,' he said. The inspectors needed to be given time to complete their work.

World leaders continue to set out their stall on the question of military action against Iraq. UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, on 13 January, told reporters that if Baghdad refused to disarm, and certain members of the UN blocked military action, countries would have the right to act without UN authorisation. Blair also repeated his conviction that there was 'no doubt' Saddam Hussein was attempting to develop weapons of mass destruction. On 14 January, however, EU Foreign Policy & Security Commissioner Javier Solana said that a consensus was developing among EU members on how to proceed: 'A second [UN Security Council] resolution may be necessary, I am for that,' he said. Saudi Arabia revealed on 12 January that it had submitted proposals to fellow Arab states on a means of resolving the crisis peacefully, and expected these to be the basis of a summit.

On 14 January, two German businessmen went on trial in Mannheim charged with supplying Iraq with technology used in the manufacture of long range cannons, in violation of Germany's weapons export laws and of UN sanctions. The pair are also accused of collaborating with the Ukraine in 1997 and 1998 to sell Iraq parts for Russian-built MiG aircraft.

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