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Statement by IAEA Director General Hans Blix on IAEA Inspections in Iraq to the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Inspections in Iraq to the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Washington, D.C., USA

23 October 1991


I want to thank Chairman Pell, Senator Helms, and the rest of the Foreign Relations Committee for giving me the opportunity to come here today and discuss the implications of the IAEA's inspection activities in Iraq for the future of the Agency and non proliferation.

Truly, this has been a remarkable year, particularly in the arms control and non proliferation area. During 1991, dramatic arms control agreements have been reached; even more sweeping ones have been suggested. The spectre of a nuclear war between the two great powers no longer hovers over us. Moreover, a number of countries have come forth willing to sign non proliferation pledges and allow IAEA inspectors into their nuclear facilities that, up until now, were most reluctant to do so.

However, at the same time, IAEA inspectors in Iraq have recently uncovered vast unknown, undeclared uranium enrichment programmes in the billion dollar range and documentary evidence of an advanced nuclear weapons development programme. This is a direct and flagrant violation of Iraq's non proliferation pledge.

It demonstrates with shocking clarity that international non proliferation is a vital component of all countries' national security.

Argentina and Brazil are among the countries that recognize this. Not only did these two threshold nations sign agreements between themselves for close nuclear co operation, but they agreed to open their nuclear installations to the IAEA inspectors for the safeguarding of nuclear materials. South Africa is another such nation. It recently signed the Non Proliferation Treaty perhaps the most successful arms control agreement in the world. In doing so, it joined the more than 140 non nuclear weapon States that have committed themselves under the NPT to remain without nuclear weapons and to accept on site verification by IAEA inspectors. Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia have followed suit.

France and China have also come forward, saying they are ready in principle to join the other three declared nuclear weapon States in adhering to the NPT. This means all five Permanent Members of the United Nations Security Council now agree to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. Furthermore, North Korea, which adhered to the Treaty in 1985, recently accepted the IAEA's standard agreement for safeguards verification under the NPT. These agreements should give the world reason for optimism, and a receding fear of nuclear war.

However, there is the ominous shadow of Iraq. Iraq is, of course, a special case. There is reason to believe most States that adhere to the NPT and other non proliferation treaties are sincere in their commitment and they accept international inspections to strengthen confidence in their pledge. At the same time, Iraq shows we cannot accept such an assumption blindly, and without examining possible contradictory evidence.

The IAEA's present system of verification and inspections under the NPT was the first on site inspection system in the world. Although it was revolutionary when it was negotiated around three decades ago, it reflects the reluctance of the industrial States which created it to confer far reaching rights on international inspectors. However, lessons learned from our unique, wide ranging inspections in Iraq show us some ways the IAEA's safeguards inspection system should be given sharper teeth.

First of all, the IAEA must have access to information from sources besides the country where inspections are being conducted. If the State itself does not declare nuclear installations, we must learn through other sources where to look. The nuclear inspections teams sent to Iraq this year have been provided with such material by Member States, through the Special Commission, designating suspected sites for inspection. Our inspectors cannot comb through every inch of a State's territory blindly searching for nuclear material and installations. We need and receive information from supplier States on exports of such material. But a system where the IAEA was informed by Member States of relevant data obtained through national technical means satellite cameras and other intelligence gathering activities would dramatically strengthen the Agency's inspection teams as it has in Iraq.

Providing, of course, that these teams are entitled to go to locations which are under reasonable suspicion. The IAEA cannot engage in intelligence activities, but I see no reason why a special unit in the Agency should not receive selective information from Member States' national satellites. These are used for national security and preventing nuclear proliferation is surely a national security activity. Such information would allow our inspectors to identify targets that require special inspections.

That brings me to my second point. The Agency must have the right of free access to locations pinpointed by the intelligence reports. Although the Agency is given the right to perform special inspections in safeguards agreements, it has never been used for the purpose of inspecting undeclared locations. This is primarily because up until recent events in Iraq, there was never any information indicating a need for such inspections. Such inspections would obviously have to be approached carefully and be subject to control by the Board of Governors. Other improvements to the right of access should be made by extending the right to unannounced inspections and providing the right of entry for inspectors without visa requirements.

Third, the right of access must be linked to an enforcement mechanism. Inspectors cannot shoot their way into locations and installations they are entitled to visit and inspect. As we saw in Iraq, they can be shut out or shut in. The inspected State must know that the Security Council will intervene and enforce the right of the inspectors as it did in Iraq.

The challenge of Iraq has provided the international community and the IAEA with the opportunity to develop a much strengthened safeguards system that can give assurance non proliferation pledges are being respected. We are anxious to meet this challenge and others such as those related to nuclear safety and technology transfer. Our task in Iraq is much larger, more complex and more dramatic than we ever suspected. The IAEA is able to draw on decades of experience in the field of nuclear inspection and use our own inspectors, equipment and laboratories, but the work has been very exacting.

For example, our inspection teams have brought great quantites of documents out of Iraq. These documents must be catalogued, translated and evaluated before we can even begin to judge the value of their contents and put pertinent information into place. The material contains a considerable amount of evidence of procurement activities for materials and goods for the Iraq nuclear weapons programme. Perhaps most of this may turn out to be perfectly legitimate, normal trade in items that may have an innocent use, but which can also be used in nuclear weapons programmes. At this time, we are translating and analysing the information and the names of firms relevant to our work will be given to the governments in question.

Let me say here that barring any directive to the contrary from the Security Council, we will make public names of firms which appear to have been involved in trade in sensitive items. We have no wish to protect any firms violating national regulations. But we must handle this responsibly.

This is just one example of the overall massive effort the Agency is engaged in under Resolution 687. I should note here that this effort is not funded out of our Regular Budget, but from special UN funds. However, the very size of this work stresses the entire Agency. In addition to the Iraq project and the programme to strengthen safeguards overall, as well as the necessity to expand the programme to cover the new Member States and inspections in Argentina, Brazil and South Africa, we have expanded programmes or requests to expand almost every area of the Agency. Willingness to undertake these tasks is not enough. There must be resources. We have serious budget concerns which we know do affect our ability to respond.

The Agency learned another lesson in Iraq. We learned that measures undertaken over seven years of zero real growth budgeting, measures considered rational and cost effective at the time when they were taken, may have affected the Agency's capability.

The Agency's annual safeguards budget totals about $60 million. There are only 200 inspectors for almost 1000 installations, worldwide. Some believe this level of funding would be adequate if less attention were paid to countries that no one suspects and more attention were devoted to some other countries. This sounds good, but it raises the question of who grades the credentials of the States and with what criteria? The safeguards inspections system is set up to be as equal as an airport monitoring system and prejudice towards any countries without reasonable cause would endanger acceptance of the non proliferation regime.

Reverting to Iraq for a moment, this need to have conformity of inspections set the standard of inspection frequency on research reactors, to two a year. In hindsight, this was unfortunate, for with more frequent inspections, we might have deferred Iraqi authorities from the nuclear weapons effort. Determining the number of inspections at any installation also raises questions of budgetary concerns.

When the zero growth policy was first imposed it prompted genuine budget and programme reform within international organizations. But the consequences of the continued application of this policy are beginning to alarm us. Every year greater demands are being made upon the Agency's resources. Although we welcome this recognition of our capability, we are rapidly approaching the time when the world's expectations of the Agency are inconsistent with our available resources. Contributing to the problem is the manner in which several countries delay their payments against their regular budget assessments until late in the calendar or programme year so that we are perennially in economic disaster. Regrettably, the example of the United States is rubbing off on other countries.

Let me close by saying the safeguards situation in Iraq is unprecedented, but the lessons it has taught us, if learned, should be valuable in the future. The success of the IAEA has direct implications for all countries' national security. The success of the Agency depends upon the will of the members of the organization. I hope this committee will continue to recognize and support the principles for which the IAEA stands.




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