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Chief Inspector Says Gaps Remain in Iraq Weapons Report

Those alleged inaccuracies led the U.S. to declare Iraq in “material breach” of the U.N.’s most recent Iraq resolution.

Blix said much of the new information Baghdad provided, which claims Iraq has no weapons programs, had little to do with military efforts. The portions that did, he said, contained little information that Iraq had not already declared in 1998.

“It would have been much better if the report had provided more evidence, and much of it was repetition of what had been said before,” Blix told a press conference after the Security Council meeting.

“There were a lot of open questions at the end of 1998… these have not been answered by evidence in the new declaration. The absence of that evidence means we can not have confidence” those materials do not still exist, Blix said.

Mohamed ElBaradei, chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told reporters that Iraq has cooperated in facilitating weapons inspections, but “we have not been getting what we need in terms of additional evidence.”

Blix and ElBaradei said they plan to continue their analysis of the Iraqi document, and ElBaradei said it could be “some time before the veracity of the declaration is determined.”

Calling the Iraq dossier “a catalogue of recycled information and flagrant omissions,” Secretary of State Colin Powell said the report “totally fails” to meet the requirements of U.N. Resolution 1441, passed in November.

“These are material omissions that in our view constitute another material breech,” Powell told a press briefing. “We are disappointed, we are not deceived.”

Although he did not say whether such a breech would spark a military conflict with the U.S., Powell noted the “serious consequences” the U.N. said Iraq could face if it does not comply with the resolution.

“Iraq’s non-compliance and defiance at the international community has brought it closer to the day when it will have to face these consequences,” Powell said.

Earlier, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Negroponte told reporters that the Iraqi declaration “has done nothing to dispel the serious doubts we have about the regime’s veracity and gives us no confidence that Iraq plans to comply with its disarmament obligations.”

Jeremy Greenstock, Britain’s U.N. Ambassador, said Iraq had failed to comply with Paragraph 4 of the U.N. resolution — the portion that says “false statements or omissions in the declarations submitted by Iraq pursuant to this resolution … shall constitute a further material breach of Iraq’s obligations.”

Iraqi officials, however, said Thursday they had nothing to fear from the U.N. reports.

“It seems they [the U.S. and Britain] are more worried than we are about this assessment,” presidential adviser Amir al-Saadi told a Baghdad news conference. “We are not worried. It’s the other side that is worried because there is nothing they can pin on us.”

Iraq submitted the 12,000-page declaration Dec. 8, in accordance with a U.N. resolution requiring it fully document its weapons of mass destruction programs. The five permanent members of the Security Council received the first full copies a few days later.

British Foreign Minister Jack Straw on Wednesday said the Iraqi document contained “obvious omissions,” and told reporters that if Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein “persists in this obvious falsehood, it will become clear that he has rejected the pathway to peace laid down in [United Nations] Resolution 1441.”

Nonetheless, Straw said Iraq would have to impede the progress of U.N. weapons inspectors in order to be found in “material breach” of the U.N. resolution — a move that could spark a military conflict.

U.N. inspectors have been searching sites in Iraq looking for evidence of biological, chemical or nuclear weapons — or the elements used to produce them.

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