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UNSC agrees to return UN weapons inspectors

Security Council unanimously agrees to return UN weapons inspectors to Iraq

8 November – The Security Council today voted unanimously to return United Nations weapons inspectors to Iraq, offering Baghdad a last chance to comply with its disarmament obligations and recalling previous warnings of "serious consequences" in case of non-compliance.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan, speaking in the Council's chamber immediately after the vote, hailed the resolution for setting out in clear terms Iraq's obligation to cooperate with the United Nations. He urged Baghdad "to seize this opportunity," and warned that if its defiance continued, "the Security Council must face its responsibilities."

The measure adopted this morning by the 15-member Council demands that within a week of being notified by the Secretary-General of the resolution Iraq confirm its intention to comply with the text. The resolution also obliges Baghdad to cooperate "immediately, unconditionally, and actively" with the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Finding that Iraq "has been and remains" in material breach of its obligations, as spelled out in previous Council resolutions, the resolution calls on Baghdad to provide the UN's two inspection bodies a full accounting of its weapons programmes within 30 days.

According to the resolution, false statements or omissions in the declarations submitted by Iraq, as well as its failure to comply at any time with the implementation of the measure, would constitute a "further material breach" of its obligations. The heads of UNMOVIC and IAEA are directed to report immediately such violations to the Council for further assessment.

The Council agreed to convene immediately upon receipt of any such report in order to consider the need for full compliance with all of its resolutions "in order to secure international peace and security."

To help UNMOVIC and the IAEA conduct their work, the resolution decides that Iraq shall provide them with "immediate, unimpeded, unconditional, and unrestricted" access to any and all areas they wish to inspect, including Presidential Sites, as well as to all officials they want to interview.

The resolution also spells out "revised or additional authorities" binding on Iraq to facilitate the two bodies' work, including unrestricted rights of entry into and out of the country and the right to "free, unrestricted, and immediate" movement to and from inspection sites.

UNMOVIC and the IAEA will also have the right to declare, for the purposes of freezing a site to be inspected, exclusion zones in which Iraq will have to suspend ground and air movement so that nothing is changed in or taken out of a potential site. In addition, inspectors are empowered to "remove, destroy, or render harmless all prohibited weapons, subsystems, components, records, materials, and other related items, and the right to impound or close any facilities or equipment for the production thereof."

Member States were called on to give full support to the two inspection bodies, including by providing any information related to prohibited programmes and by recommending sites to be inspected.

Reacting to the Council's action this morning, UNMOVIC Executive Chairman Hans Blix told reporters that both he and IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei were very pleased that the resolution was adopted unanimously. "That strengthens our mandate very much," he said.

It was now up to Iraq to cooperate, he added, stressing that Baghdad would have to submit its declaration on the country's weapons programme within 30 days.

A UN spokesman subsequently announced that, in accordance with standard practice, the text of the resolution had been faxed the parties concerned – Iraq and Kuwait – following its adoption. The fax transmission to Iraq began at 10:52 a.m. and was completed three minutes later.

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