| Chief arms inspector Hans Blix at the UN. (Reuters)
United Nations, Jan. 27 (Reuters): Chief UN arms inspector Hans Blix today sharply criticised Iraq for not giving enough evidence on its past weapons of mass destruction programmes but did not corroborate US claims that Baghdad had rebuilt its arsenal.
Blix was addressing the UN Security Council after two months of inspections, outlining in detail gaps in information Iraq should have delivered in a 12,000-page arms declaration on December 7. But he said the omissions could not lead him to conclude Baghdad had prohibited arms.
“Iraq appears not to have come to genuine acceptance, not even today, of the disarmament that was demanded of it,” Blix said. But he said his disarmament commission was “not presuming there were proscribed items in Iraq.” Nor he said, was he “assuming that that no such items exist in Iraq.”
After two months and more than 350 inspections, the report by inspectors Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, in charge of nuclear teams, are fuelling US arguments in favour of war but prompting other nations, including France and Russia, to say, that inspections should go on.
ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, made a direct appeal for more time in his address to the council and said he had found no evidence that “Iraq has revived its nuclear weapons programme.”
Even before the report was delivered, US ambassador John Negroponte said Iraq has not come forth with a full and complete declaration of its weapons and had not cooperated immediately and unconditionally.
After the report Negroponte said he had heard nothing to change his mind, adding inspections alone cannot achieve disarmament “when a country has an active programme of denial and deception as is the case with Iraq.”
To underline the Bush administration’s aims, secretary of state Colin Powell, on the eve of the report, said the US would go to war against Iraq alone if European allies would not join the fight, regardless of inspections.
Blix, a 74-year-old Swedish diplomat in charge of chemical, biological and ballistic arms teams, earlier listed a series of unresolved issues, which he repeated today.
He has said that documents Iraq submitted in a 12,000-page weapons declaration submitted on December 7 have not answered questions including one about the whereabouts of the deadly VX nerve gas, two tons of nutrients or growth media for biological agents, such as anthrax, and 550 artillery shells filled with mustard gas and 6,500 chemical bombs.
His teams have also found that Iraq, which says all weapons had been accounted for or destroyed since the 1991 Gulf war, obtained missile engines as well as raw material for rocket fuel and chemical agents, a violation of an arms embargo that is part of 12-year-old UN sanctions.
And despite assurances from Iraq that it would encourage its scientists to submit to private interviews, no such talks have taken place and Baghdad has blocked the use of U-2 surveillance flights over all parts of Iraq.
But at the same time the inspectors have not found evidence of banned activity or production facilities at any of the sites investigated that the US says exist.
Both Britain, whose officials briefed reporters on intelligence findings yesterday, and the US say they have evidence of Iraq squirreling missile parts out of a production site or trucks leaving facilities during inspections. Blix, after his return from Baghdad, said Iraq had generally opened all sites to inspectors, who had not found “any hidden large quantities of anything.”
Blix’s teams, however, found thousands of documents hidden in the home of an Iraqi scientist, and at least 16 empty and undeclared chemical warheads, which he said were being tested and analysed.
The UN Security Council debates the crisis on Wednesday, amid strong signs the US has delayed a formal decision to go to war for several weeks. Germany, which holds the rotating presidency of the council for February, would like another report from inspectors on February 14.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has sent thousands of troops to join a US military build-up in the Gulf, has also said inspections should continue for a bit longer.
In Davos, Powell said the US would carefully study the report of the inspectors and consult other members of the deeply divided UN Security Council before acting.
But he made clear time was running out.