| Chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix. (Reuters)
London, April 22 (Reuters): Chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix today questioned intelligence pointing to Iraqi weapons of mass destruction used by Washington and London to justify invading the country.
In excerpts from an interview aired on BBC radio shortly before he was due to address the UN Security Council, Blix also accused US officials of seeking to discredit his team ahead of the Iraq war to try to win support for military action.
“I think it’s been one of the disturbing elements that so much of the intelligence on which the capitals built their case seemed to have been shaky,” said Blix, faulted by Washington for not coming up with evidence of illegal weapons.
Blix and his team withdrew from Iraq shortly before US-led forces invaded in March. They are willing to return but Washington says it can do the arms inspection job itself.
But Blix, due to address the council later today on his readiness to field an inspection team, may be the key to the lifting of UN trade sanctions on Iraq sought by Washington now that US-led forces have toppled its leader.
US officials say sanctions should be lifted immediately and want to send former UN inspectors from the US, Britain and Australia to verify any discovery of banned weapons instead of Blix and his team.
But Russia, which holds veto powers on the Security Council, reiterated today that it should lift the sanctions, imposed after Iraq’s troops invaded Kuwait in 1990, only when official UN weapons inspectors say Iraq is free of illegal arms.
Along with France and some other countries which opposed the war, Russia fears that once the 12-year old sanctions are lifted the UN will have little influence on Iraq’s future.
Blix said he would not dream of accusing US and British intelligence agents of fabricating reports on illegal arms. But he questioned their ability to spot what he called “fakes” such as a report Iraq had imported tonnes of raw uranium.
“Is it not disturbing that the intelligence agencies that should have all the technical means at their disposal did not discover that this was falsified'” he told the BBC.
“I think that’s very very disturbing. Who falsifies this'” he said in the excerpts of the interview, aired ahead of the planned full broadcast on Saturday.
Blix said allegations by US officials that his team had deliberately suppressed information on an Iraqi unmanned drone plane and a cluster bomb in its pre-war report on Iraq’s weapons were intended to discredit inspectors.
“At that time the US was very eager to sway the votes of the Security Council and they felt that stories about these things would be useful to have and they let it out,” said Blix, who reported Iraq had not fully accounted for its illegal arms.
“Thereby they tried to hurt us a bit and say we’d suppressed this,” he added. Asked whether the US had leaked information to sway UN votes, he said: “It looked like that.”
US and British troops have not found nuclear, chemical or biological arms since they ousted Saddam Hussein.