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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Washington File

05 June 2003

U.S. Does Not Rule Out Future Role for U.N. Weapons Inspectors in Iraq

(Security Council holds final meeting with chief U.N. inspector Blix)
(990)
By Judy Aita
Washington File Special Correspondent
United Nations -- U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John
Negroponte says although coalition forces presently are carrying out
searches for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, the United States does
not rule out the possibility that U.N. weapons inspectors and the
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) could play a future role in
the searches.
Speaking to reporters at the United Nations June 5, Negroponte also
said that he does not have "any doubt that we will be able to
establish that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq."
The Security Council had a final meeting June 5 with U.N. chief
weapons inspector Hans Blix, who he leaves his post at the end of the
month. The council praised the Swedish diplomat and former IAEA head
for his work in trying to rid Iraq of its chemical, biological and
nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.
Blix, executive chairman of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and
Monitoring Commission (UNMOVIC), said in his report to the council
that from the time it was allowed back into Iraq in November 2002
until its staff was withdrawn on March 19, 2003 on the eve of
hostilities, the commission made "little progress" in its effort to
certify that Iraq no longer had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) or
production programs.
He said the inspectors had conducted more than 730 inspections
covering 411 sites and numerous conferences with Iraqi officials.
Addressing the council in an open session, Blix said that "the
commission has not at any time during the inspections in Iraq found
evidence of continuation of resumption of programs of weapons of mass
destruction or significant quantities of proscribed items -- whether
from pre-1991 or later.
"This does not necessarily mean that such items could not exist. They
might -- there remain long lists of items unaccounted for -- but it is
not justified to jump to the conclusion that something exists just
become it is unaccounted for," he said.
"The lack of finds could be because the items were unilaterally
destroyed by the Iraqi authorities or else because they were
effectively concealed by them," Blix said. "I trust that in the new
environment in Iraq, in which there is full access and cooperation,
and in which knowledgeable witnesses should no longer be inhibited to
reveal what they know, it should be possible to establish the truth we
all want to know."
Blix stressed that the expertise and experience of the UNMOVIC staff
and weapons inspectors remain a valuable asset that can be used by the
Security Council for independent verification and monitoring,
particularly in the fields of biological weapons and missiles for
which there exists no international verification organization.
Speaking with journalists after a private council meeting with Blix,
U.S. Ambassador Negroponte said that the UNMOVIC chairman's report
"simply demonstrates that the issues that were unresolved in 1998
remain unresolved to this day. There are as many unanswered questions
about Iraq's WMD programs as there were."
Negroponte said that he told the council that the coalition is now
gearing up efforts to continue the search by launching an Iraq survey
team both in Iraq and from a base in Qatar and using intelligence from
Washington.
"This process has just begun; we've been in a stabilization phase and
a phase of trying to restore security in Iraq and it's been difficult
for this kind of work to be conducted but ... it is going forward,
more work is going to be done in this area," he said.
"We have promised to keep the council informed of those efforts. ... I
can assure you that there will be utmost transparency and when there
is anything that needs to be shared both with the international
community and the public, I'm sure that we will do so," the ambassador
said.
"I would counsel patience and let these professionals do their work as
they go about examining documents and interviewing Iraqi scientists
and high-level officials who have come under custody in recent weeks,"
Negroponte said.
Negroponte refuted suggestions that the coalition is ignoring
UNMOVIC's expertise.
"There is a vast body of past information that has been exchanged
between UNMOVIC and member governments, including our own, that is
available to use," the ambassador said.
"The important point is that there is on-the-ground work going on now
and secondly, resolution 1483 (passed May 22) stipulated that we will
revisit the issue of the mandate of UNMOVIC and the IAEA as regards to
WMD in Iraq but that simply we haven't ruled anything in or ruled
anything out as of this particular time," he said.
Talking with journalists after the council meeting, Blix wished the
coalition weapons inspectors "the best of luck."
"We all would like to see the truth about the situation in Iraq. ...
They have not found very much so far. We also did not find very much,"
he said.
"There was a great deal of unilateral destruction in the summer of
1991," Blix said. "This we know. How much? That was the big question.
Did they destroy all which they maintain or did they keep something;
did they squirrel something away?"
"When we were in Iraq in the last period, they were trying with all
kinds of inquiries, excavations, etc., to prove that they had
destroyed it all. That was not easy to do and I don't think that they
succeeded in that, but they certainly tried," he said.
Blix then said that if weapons of mass destruction are not found in
Iraq "then one would have to really ask oneself what was the reason
for the kind of conduct that Iraq had during the '90s and why were
they living through all these sanctions and hardships which they had."
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:
http://usinfo.state.gov)



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