El-Baradei supports Iraq tests but without war ultimatum

14 March 2003
Head of the International Atomic Energy Agency and leader of nuclear weapons inspections in Iraq, Mohammed el-Baradei, on 13 March supported the idea of setting tests of Iraqi disarmament, but disapproved of presenting them as an ultimatum for war. 'It's a deadline to evaluate, to take stock, not a deadline automatically to say 'I'm going to war,'' he said in an interview with AP. El-Baradei was reacting to the UK proposal, presented to the UN Security Council on 12 March, that six benchmarks of Iraqi disarmament be used to judge Iraq's compliance.

El-Baradei suggested a staggered deadline for the tests to be met and offered to go to Iraq himself to oversee compliance. 'We haven't really told them [the Iraqis] specifically what they need to do,' he said. 'You need to give them adequate time, and the time is obviously linked to the task you are asking them to do.' The UK call for private interviews with Iraqi scientists outside Iraq and for the destruction of all the Al-Samoud missiles were important, said El-Baradei. However, he shared the doubts expressed by other security council members and Iraq itself about the demand that Saddam Hussein go on television to declare that he has in the past concealed weapons of mass destruction but will now give them up. 'We have no clear evidence that he has things he is hiding for him to admit,' El-Baradei objected. He also repeated his dismissal of the US' assertion that Iraq had imported aluminium tubes for the purpose of enriching uranium, saying that his team's investigation had found that the tubes were unrelated to nuclear programmes.

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