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Weapons inspections an opportunity for Iraq - Blix

UN weapons inspections represent an opportunity for Iraq, chief of commission says

10 September – United Nations weapons inspections on the ground in Iraq - suspended since 1998 because of Baghdad's refusal to cooperate - represent a chance for the country to act in its own best interests, a senior United Nations official said today.

"We see inspection as an opportunity and not as a penalty," said Hans Blix, the Executive Chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC). "It is a chance for Iraq to demonstrate what they have, to come up with answers, and if they were to have any weapons remaining somewhere - which they deny - well, then they should present them and they should be destroyed under our supervision," he told the press after briefing a closed meeting of the Security Council.

Mr. Blix emphasized that cooperation by Iraq "in all respects" was essential for the return of UN weapons inspectors. "That is the reason why we would like to have discussions with Iraq about the practical arrangements for resumed inspections," he said.

At the same time, he stressed that substantive mandates were not up for revision. "It is not a negotiation - it is not that we will sit down and sort of try to reach a new agreement," he explained. The point was to "see eye-to-eye with Iraq," he noted.

"We have declined the idea of discussing what were the open disarmament issues at the end of 1998," as that would be at variance with the Security Council's resolutions on the issue, the Executive Chairman said.

Asked about reports of new construction at nuclear sites in Iraq, Mr. Blix said it would be necessary to get inspectors on the ground to verify what was going on. Satellite imagery showed new constructions, "but we do not draw conclusions that they are weapons of mass destruction," he said, stressing that UNMOVIC was not in the business of speculation, only fact-finding.

The Executive Chairman pointed out that many questions remained unresolved since UNMOVIC's predecessor, the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM), was withdrawn from Iraq. "These questions need to be answered, and many of them have not been so, and it would be one of our jobs, in getting back to Iraq, to discuss these issues with them," he said.

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