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No proof of illegal nuclear activity in Iraq

IAEA chief sees no proof of illegal nuclear activity but says probe continues

Reiterating that no evidence of prohibited nuclear activities has been found in Iraq so far, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) told the Security Council today that a number of issues still remain under investigation and that no conclusions could be drawn about them.

IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei said that the Agency's experience in nuclear verification shows that it is possible, particularly with an intrusive verification system, to assess the presence or absence of a nuclear weapons programme in a State even without the full cooperation of the inspected country.

"However, prompt, full and active cooperation by Iraq, as required under resolution 1441, will speed up the process," Mr. ElBaradei told the ministerial-level meeting of the Council chaired by Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer of Germany, which currently holds the 15-nation body's rotating Presidency. He spoke after an update by Hans Blix, Executive Chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), on the ongoing probe into Iraq's biological, chemical and ballistic weapons profile.

o Iraq's biological, chemical and ballistic weapons profile.

"More importantly, it will enable us to reach the high degree of assurance required by the Security Council in the case of Iraq, in view of its past clandestine [weapons of mass destruction] programme and past pattern of cooperation," he added.

The IAEA chief stressed that since the inspection process restarted last November, it had moved from a "reconnaissance phase" to an investigative one, with the intent of achieving an understanding of Iraq's activities over the last four years.

Highlighting the specific issues that the IAEA is currently pursuing, Mr. ElBaradei said Iraq continues to state that it has made no attempt to import uranium since the 1980s. "The IAEA recently received some additional information relevant to this issue, which will be further pursued, hopefully with the assistance of the African country reported to have been involved," he said.

He also noted that the IAEA is continuing its probe into Iraq's efforts to import high-strength aluminium tubes and the relocation and consumption of the high explosive HMX, and has completed its analysis of the 2,000 pages of documents found last month at the private residence of an Iraqi scientist.

In the coming weeks, Mr. ElBaradei said, the IAEA will take a number of steps to continue to expand its inspection capabilities, including increasing the number of inspectors, adding more analysts and translators to support document analysis, and intensifying and expanding the range of technical meetings and private interviews with Iraqi personnel.

"The Government of Iraq reiterated last week its commitment to comply with its Security Council obligations and to provide full and active cooperation with the inspecting organizations," Mr. ElBaradei said. "Subject to Iraq making good on this commitment, the above measures

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