Baghdad, Dec. 6 (Reuters): Iraq will give the UN a several thousand page document tomorrow expected to say it has no weapons of mass destruction but Washington has angrily refuted this.
Under a UN Security Council resolution passed last month, Iraq must make the declaration about its nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programmes by Sunday.
If Baghdad is found to be in “material breach” of the resolution, it could set the stage for a military attack on Iraq by the US and its allies in what Washington has described as a “coalition of the willing”.
Iraq says it has no such weapons programmes, and has stated that the list will describe only “dual use technology” that has peaceful as well as military applications.
Security Council diplomats said they believed it could take up to 10 days for the document to be analysed.
UN weapons inspectors, who have reported cooperation from Iraq during their visits so far to 20 suspect sites, were taking a break yesterday and today for the Id festival.
But UN sources in Iraq said another 30 inspectors would be arriving in Baghdad on Sunday to beef up numbers from the 17 who conducted the first probes. They said inspections would resume at 0530 GMT tomorrow.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters in Washington: “Iraq has lied before and is lying now about whether they possess weapons of mass destruction.”
“The President of the United States and the secretary of defence would not assert as plainly and bluntly as they have that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction if it was not true, and if they did not have a solid basis for saying it,” he said yesterday.
Hussam Mohammed Amin, head of the Iraqi National Monitoring Directorate, has said the declaration would “contain new elements” regarding activities conducted during the absence of the inspectors since they left in 1998.
He said the declaration “covers biological, chemical and missile and nuclear activities, but not prohibited activities”.
One diplomat at the Security Council said the file would set a baseline for judging violations. “After the declaration has come in, anything that is found shows that (President) Saddam Hussein meant to deceive,” he said.
MAMMOTH AIR JOURNEY
The declaration, written in both English and Arabic and running to thousands of pages, would be handed over to the United Nations in a low key ceremony in Iraq on Saturday evening before it starts a mammoth air journey across three continents, the U.N. sources in Iraq said.
They said the document, which might also include CD-ROMs holding huge amounts of data electronically, would be flown first to Cyprus on a U.N. plane and from there to Vienna and New York, before the midnight Sunday deadline.
The part covering Iraq's nuclear programme would be dispatched to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, the source said, without giving any exact timings.
The section concerning chemical, biological and ballistic programmes would be sent to the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission in New York.
An Iraqi Information Ministry official said journalists would be invited to the Iraqi National Monitoring Directorate on Saturday morning. It was not immediately clear why.