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UN experts to review Iraqi Decl. before sharing it

To prevent proliferation, UN experts to review Iraqi Declaration before sharing it

6 December – The Security Council today requested that United Nations experts review Iraq's weapons Declaration - due this weekend - before transmitting it to the 15-member body in order to allay concerns that the document itself could potentially foster arms proliferation.

Following closed-door consultations, Council President Alfonso Valdivieso of Colombia said members had "decided to make UNMOVIC [UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspections Commission] the depositary of the Declaration, and asked UNMOVIC and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to review it immediately with their experts from the standpoint of existing international treaties" on disarmament and non-proliferation.

"Members of the Security Council will meet next week to decide on the further handling of the Declaration," Ambassador Valdivieso told the press.

Also speaking to reporters, UNMOVIC chief Hans Blix said the members had discussed "the risks of releasing parts of this Declaration that might help to achieve proliferation of nuclear or biological or chemical weapons." He added that the Council was "fully aware that as the highest authority in the UN system for security, they must make sure that they respect the conventions" related to arms, such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological Weapons Convention.

As such, Mr. Blix said, the Council had asked UNMOVIC and the IAEA to examine the documents and determine whether any parts should not be circulated.

"All the Governments in the Council are aware that they should not have access to anything that anyone else does not have access to, so if any parts would be proliferation-prone, none of them would like to have it," he said. "But we of course would have to report to the Council the criteria upon which we are advising that we should withhold any parts."

This process, he observed, "may take a little time, and before we get to that question, which is an important one - the Council was unanimous - there is the mechanical handling" of the Declaration. "There will be large parts that will be in Arabic, and as we understand it now, it is unlikely that anything will be on CD-ROMs, so we will have to attain that, and that's a bit of mechanical work," he noted, adding that he would report to the Council next week on the matter.

A closer assessment of the document, which could run to 10,000 pages, "of course will take a little longer," Mr. Blix cautioned.

Responding to questions, he said the UN experts in Iraq would welcome "as much information from any Member State as to evidence that they may have on weapons of mass destruction, and in particular sites, because we are inspectors - we can go to sites."

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