Blix Hails Iraqi Cooperation
Friday 7 March 2003
Only hours after the US president, George Bush, threatened to push for a resolution authorising military action against Iraq within days, the chief UN weapons inspector this afternoon described Iraqi cooperation on disarmament as "active or even proactive". He called for inspectors to be given more time.
Hans Blix, reporting to the UN security council, said that 34 of Iraq's illegal Samoud 2 missiles had been destroyed, despite Baghdad's insistence that the weapons did not violate the UN-mandated 150km limit.
He noted that no missiles appeared to have been destroyed today, and expressed hope that this was only a temporary delay.
In sharp contrast to US and British claims that Iraq is not disarming, Mr Blix said the destruction of the missiles was a "substantial measure of disarmament".
"We are not talking about the breaking of toothpicks," he said. "These are lethal weapons being destroyed."
Mr Blix said that, in general, his inspection teams had "been able to perform professional, no-notice inspections all over Iraq".
However, he criticised Saddam Hussein's regime for failing to provide documentary evidence of past production of chemical and biological weapons.
The Iraqis had handed over some documents detailing the destruction of anthrax and VX, he said, but that only raised questions about how much had been produced in the first place.
There had been reports of Iraq producing weapons of mass destruction in underground facilities, Mr Blix added, and the inspectors had hunted for these, in some cases using ground radar. No underground facilities for chemical or biological weapons had been found.
Mr Blix also reported progress in attempts to interview Iraqi scientists with knowledge of proscribed weapons programmes.
He said that Iraq had provided the names of "many" relevant scientists, and the UN had requested interviews with 38 of them. Ten had accepted the invitation, with seven saying yes during the last week.
"After a period of somewhat reluctant cooperation, there has been an acceleration in Iraqi initiatives in January," Mr Blix said.
He pointed out at length that weapons inspectors did not just operate under UN resolution 1441, which the security council passed unanimously in November, but under a number of resolutions passed since the 1991 Gulf war.
Several times, he referred to future improvements in inspections, including night vision flights provided by Russia, drone surveillance flights using German aircraft, and potentially out-of-country interviews with key Iraqi personnel.
"Disarmament, and at any rate verification, cannot be instant," he said. "It will not take years, nor weeks, but months."
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