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Findings of the U.N. Weapons Inspectors in Iraq

March 7, 2003 at 12:00 AM EDT


RAY SUAREZ: In his third update to the Security Council this year, the chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, said his team has faced relatively few difficulties gaining access to Iraqi sites, and he reported recent progress in the area of monitoring Iraq by air.

HANS BLIX: And at this juncture, we are able to perform professional no- notice inspections all over Iraq and to increase aerial surveillance. American U-2 and French Mirage surveillance aircraft already give us valuable imagery, supplementing satellite pictures, and we would expect soon to be able to add night- vision capability through an aircraft offered to us by the Russian Federation. We also expect to add low-level, close-area surveillance through drones provided by Germany.

RAY SUAREZ: Blix cited mixed success in gaining independent interviews with Iraqi scientists.

HANS BLIX: While the Iraqi side seems to have encouraged interviewees not to request the presence of Iraqi officials, so-called “minders,” or the taping of the interviews, conditions ensuring the absence of undue influences are difficult to attain inside Iraq. Interviews outside the country might provide such assurance. It is our intention to request such interviews shortly. Nevertheless, despite remaining shortcomings, interviews are useful.

RAY SUAREZ: Blix said his agency, known by the acronym UNMOVIC, found no evidence so far of mobile or underground weapons sites. As for Baghdad’s al Samoud 2 missiles, which inspectors say travel further than allowed by the U.N., Blix confirmed Iraq has begun to destroy them.

HANS BLIX: The destruction undertaken constitutes a substantial measure of disarmament, indeed the first since the middle of the 1990s. We are not watching the breaking of toothpicks. Lethal weapons are being destroyed. However, I must add that the report I have today tells me that no destruction work has continued today. I hope this is a temporary break.

RAY SUAREZ: Blix declined to give a definitive answer as to whether Iraq has complied with the newest U.N. resolution: 1441.

HANS BLIX: There has been an acceleration of initiatives from the Iraqi side since the end of January. This is welcome. But the value of these measures must be soberly judged by how many question marks they actually succeed in straightening out. This is not yet clear. Against this background, the question is now asked whether Iraq has cooperated “immediately, unconditionally and actively,” with UNMOVIC, as is required under paragraph nine of Resolution 1441. The answers can be seen from the factual descriptions that I have provided. It is obvious that, while the numerous initiatives which are now taken by the Iraqi side, with a view to resolving some long-standing open disarmament issues, can be seen as active or even proactive. These initiatives, three to four months into the new resolution, cannot be said to constitute immediate cooperation, nor do they necessarily cover all areas of relevance. How much time would it take to resolve the key remaining disarmament tasks? While cooperation can… and cooperation can and is to be immediate, disarmament, and at any rate verification of it, cannot be instant. It will not take years, nor weeks, but months.

RAY SUAREZ: The U.N.’s chief nuclear inspector, Mohamed ElBaradei, also spoke of timing. He said that in the near future he could give a thorough assessment whether Iraq has revived its 1980’s nuclear program. That program included sites known as centrifuge plants.

MOHAMED ELBARADEI: At this stage, the following can be stated: One, there is no indication of resumed nuclear activities in those buildings that were identified through the use of satellite imagery as being reconstructed or newly erected since 1998, nor any indication of nuclear-related prohibited activities at any inspected sites. Second, there is no indication that Iraq has attempted to import uranium since 1990. Three, there is no indication that Iraq has attempted to import aluminum tubes for use in centrifuge enrichment. After three months of intrusive inspections, we have to date found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapon program in Iraq.

RAY SUAREZ: ElBaradei said Iraq has recently been forthcoming in its cooperation, possibly because of international pressure.