The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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The report of the chairman of the United Nations monitoring, verification and inspection commission in Iraq has made the prospect of war in the Persian Gulf even more likely. Indeed, the chance of a peaceful resolution of the current crisis has been further eroded with the submission of the report. The chairman of UNMOVIC, Mr Hans Blix, in his report, has charged Iraq with not cooperating with the UN resolutions that called for the systematic elimination of the capability to manufacture weapons of mass destruction and any existing stocks. Although the report does admit that Iraq has begun cooperating, it basically asserts that Baghdad might still not be complying in full with the relevant resolutions. In short, the inspection commission still has concerns about Iraq’s chemical and biological weapons programmes. The UN inspection team is particularly unsure about the location of weapons that were produced before the 1991 Kuwait war. The inspection report also claims that Iraq has not been completely truthful about the past production of nerve agent VX and the germ agent, anthrax. According to the report, Iraq has also not cooperated with the inspection team in tracking down stocks of artillery shells filled with nerve gas and other chemical weapons. The existence of these weapons has been revealed by official Iraqi documents that were discovered by the team.

While the UNMOVIC report is disturbing in its assessment of Iraqi capabilities in the field of chemical and biological weapons, the report of the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency is different. The IAEA chair, Mr Mohammad El Baradei, has indicated that there was no evidence that Iraq has revived its nuclear weapons programme or that it has any nuclear weapons or capabilities on its soil. The Iraqi nuclear programme was thoroughly investigated and eliminated after its defeat in the 1991 war. There were, however, those who believed that Iraq might have resuscitated its programme. But it is unlikely that the Atomic Energy Agency report will prevent the Unites States of America from acting more decisively in the days to come. The US is determined to ensure that there is a change of the Saddam Hussein regime, and the chances of that happening peacefully now are very slim. The latest UNMOVIC report may have given the US enough legitimacy to launch a military attack even without fresh UN security council support. It remains to be seen if the US’s European allies, especially France and Germany, moderate their opposition to the war after the latest evidence of the UNMOVIC report.

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