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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iraq: UN panel ready to inspect for prohibited arms at Security Council's request

2 March 2004 The United Nations commission set up to monitor and destroy Iraq's weapons of mass destruction is continuing its work and stands ready to resume operations in the country at the request of the Security Council, according to a document released today at UN Headquarters in New York.

In its quarterly report, the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) describes its ongoing work, including elaborating a compendium of Iraq's past proscribed weapons programmes.

In part, that text seeks to explore "specific signatures and indicators of activities relating to weapons of mass destruction and the identification of related facilities, and how the detection of those signs can be applied to future monitoring." Outside suppliers to Iraq are also being examined, as well as Baghdad's methods for hiding the purpose of its procurement activities.

The report notes that lessons drawn from the Iraq experience "may be useful and applicable in other non-proliferation contexts."

UNMOVIC received no official information during the period under review on the testimony of David Kay, the former head of the United States Iraq Survey Group, before the US Senate Armed Services Committee. Noting that his successor, Charles Duelfer, is expected to provide another update on the Group's work later this month, UNMOVIC voices hope that it will receive a copy.

The report also includes information on the UN board which provides guidance to UNMOVIC. At a meeting in late February, the 'College of Commissioners' underlined the importance of being prepared for ongoing monitoring in the event that the Security Council should ask UNMOVIC to implement its resolutions on Iraq.

While recognizing that it is up to the Security Council to decide on when to discuss UNMOVIC's role, the report points to the prevailing view that delays could hamper the work. "Some concern was expressed that there had been further resignations of expert staff," the report states. "It was noted that trained and experienced experts, once dispersed, were difficult to reassemble at short notice."

Currently, UNMOVIC has 51 professional staff members - drawn from 24 different countries - at UN Headquarters. They are supported by a handful of staff working in Cyprus and Baghdad.

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