Signs of more proactive co-operation from Iraq

20 January 2003
Iraq on 20 January showed signs that it was getting the message on more proactive co-operation with the UN, agreeing to private interviews with scientists and handing over more 'forgotten' chemical warheads. Head of the weapons inspections team Hans Blix and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Mohammed el-Baradei visited Baghdad on 19 January to deliver the message that, as El-Baradei put it, 'time is running out' and Iraq 'should not just be appearing to be dragged into compliance.' The stance was in line with Blix's preliminary briefing to the UN Security Council on 10 January but the message was made more urgent by the discovery last week of 11 chemical warheads not included in Iraq's weapons declaration to the UN. Blix emerged from his meeting with the president's scientific adviser Emir al-Saadi and head of the National Monitoring Directorate Hussam Mohammed Amin sounding cautiously positive, saying that he was 'fairly confident' that Iraq would fulfil its obligations, and that: 'We have solved a number of practical issues, not all.' Baghdad agreed to allow scientists to be interviewed privately, without the presence of a government representative, and promised to establish an inspections team of its own to search for weapons that may have been omitted from the declaration. Iraq said on 19 January that it had found a further four empty chemical warheads. Other points agreed between Blix and the Iraqis were the submission of more documents to inspectors, the presence of Iraqi officials on UN helicopter inspection missions, and Baghdad responding to some of the questions raised by the declaration. Both the US and UK have pointed to significant gaps in what the 12,000-page document reveals.

Despite more than 50,000 Americans converging on the Mall in Washington DC in an anti-war protest on 18 January, the Bush administration continued to take a bellicose line. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told Fox television news that the US already had 'a sizeable coalition of the willing [for military action against Iraq] with or without a second UN resolution,' and that the Iraqi leader was not co-operating. National Security Adviser Condolezza Rice said that while 27 January, the date of the weapons inspectors' first formal report to the Security Council, was not a deadline it 'probably marks the start of the last phase'. On the other hand, Rumsfeld did not rule out the exile of the Iraqi leadership as a means to avoid war - a solution some Arab states are said to favour.

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