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Iraq cooperating but more on 'substance' needed

Iraq cooperating but needs to do more on 'substance,' Blix tells Security Council

Multimedia Coverage: Video of Blix Addressing Security Council

27 January – While Iraq has cooperated in allowing United Nations inspectors into various sites, the top UN arms expert, Hans Blix, told the Security Council today that Baghdad should be more forthcoming with information and allow greater access to key personnel with knowledge of the country's weapons programmes.

On the whole, Iraq has cooperated rather well with the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), Mr. Blix, the Commission's Executive Chairman, said in his statement at an open session of the UN Security Council. "The most important point to make is that access has been provided to all sites we have wanted to inspect and with one exception, it has been prompt," he stressed.

But in his 60-day update of the activities of the Commission, which is mandated to search for chemical, biological and other weapons, Mr. Blix said that the Iraqis have fallen short on issues of substance. "It is not enough to open doors," he said. "Inspection is not a game of 'catch as catch can.'"

Mr. Blix repeated his assertion that the 12,000-page arms declaration submitted last month by Baghdad, while containing some new information, regrettably leaves many questions unanswered. "These reports do not contend that weapons of mass destruction remain in Iraq, but nor do they exclude that possibility," he noted. "They point to lack of evidence and inconsistencies, which raise question marks, which must be straightened out, if weapons dossiers are to be closed and confidence is to arise."

Mr. Blix said that Iraq "appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance - not even today - of the disarmament which was demanded of it and which it needs to carry out to win the confidence of the world and to live in peace."

On chemical weapons, Mr. Blix said, UNMOVIC has information which conflicts with the Iraqi claim that it had produced the deadly VX nerve agent only on a pilot scale, in small amounts and in such poor quality that it was never weaponized and was subsequently destroyed. As for the recent discovery of a number of 122 millimetre chemical rocket warheads, he said that finding shows that Iraq "needs to make more effort to ensure that its declaration is currently accurate."

The Executive Chairman suggested that Iraq could provide more documentation as well as an accurate list of personnel involved in the country's past weapons programme as a way to clarify several questions. He noted that a recent search of the home of a scientist turned up a box of some 3,000 pages of documents after Baghdad had claimed that it had no more papers to turn over.

"Any further sign of concealment of documents would be serious," he said. "The Iraqi side committed itself at our recent talks to encourage persons to accept access also to private sites. There can be no sanctuaries for proscribed items, activities or documents. A denial of prompt access to any site would be a very serious matter."

As for interviews with key individuals, Mr. Blix reported that of the 11 persons asked to submit to UN questioning, their replies have invariably been that they will only speak at Iraq's monitoring directorate or in the presence of an Iraqi official. Although Baghdad has agreed to encourage persons to accept "private" interviews with the UN alone, "the pattern has not changed," Mr. Blix said.

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