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Judgement on weapons finding must await evaluation


Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Media Statement

17 January 2003

Judgement on weapons finding must await evaluation

Foreign Minister Phil Goff said today that more information will be needed before the full significance of UNMOVIC’s discovery of a dozen warheads can be properly determined.

Mr Goff’s remarks are consistent with those of the US and British Ambassadors to the United Nations who have called for more detail from Unmovic inspectors before making any judgement on the finding.

“The leader of the UNMOVIC team has said that the find is ‘not a smoking gun’. In determining its significance UNMOVIC will be looking for answers to a number of questions.

- Were the warheads declared anywhere in the Iraqi declaration of December 8?
- Do they form part of the records complied by Unmovic’s predecessor Unscom, acknowledged by the Iraqis?
- Are the warheads weapons Iraq has been prohibited from possessing?

“UNMOVIC is due to make a formal progress report to the United Nations Security Council on the findings of its inspection process in ten days time. However we believe that it is important that the inspection process is given time to work. Having confidence in the thoroughness of the process is more important than an arbitrary deadline.

“New Zealand has maintained a consistent position on the process. Its goal is to ensure Iraqi disarmament is in line with its own undertakings and repeated UN resolutions.

“That this process operates multilaterally and under a UN mandate is critical to its credibility. Its success relies on the exercise being seen as having strong international backing and endorsement.

“While force must always be an ultimate sanction for the UN to be able to ensure its decisions are upheld, our hope is that Iraqi disarmament can be achieved without the necessity for armed force to be applied.

“However as Hans Blix and Mohamed El Baradei have reiterated, the responsibility to ensure this outcome rests first and foremost with Saddam Hussein. He must either provide evidence that Iraq has destroyed suspected weapons of mass destruction such as archives and budgets - or surrender what they might have for destruction,” Mr Goff said.

ENDS

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