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The World | SHOWDOWN WITH IRAQ

Excerpts From the U.N. Discussions

HANS BLIX, Chief U.N. arms inspector

March 08, 2003

For nearly three years, I have been coming to the Security Council presenting the quarterly reports of [the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission]. They have described our many preparations for the resumption of inspections in Iraq.

Inspections in Iraq resumed on 27 Nov., 2002. In matters relating to process, notably prompt access to sites, we have faced relatively few difficulties....

Initial difficulties raised by the Iraqi side about helicopters and aerial surveillance planes operating in the "no-fly" zones were overcome.

This is not to say that the operation of inspections is free from frictions, but at this juncture we are able to perform professional no-notice inspections all over Iraq and to increase aerial surveillance.

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Iraq, with a highly developed administrative system, should be able to provide more documentary evidence about its proscribed weapons programs. Only a few new such documents have come to light....

In the last month, Iraq has provided us with the names of many persons who may be relevant sources of information....

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.

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Intelligence authorities have claimed that weapons of mass destruction are moved around Iraq by trucks and, in particular, that there are mobile production units for biological weapons. The Iraqi side states that such activities do not exist....

Food testing mobile laboratories and mobile workshops have been seen, as well as large containers with seed processing equipment. No evidence of proscribed activities.

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There have been reports, denied from the Iraqi side, that proscribed activities are conducted underground....

No underground facilities for chemical or biological production or storage were found so far.

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While during our meetings in Baghdad the Iraqi side tried to persuade us that the Al-Samoud 2 missiles they have declared fall within the permissible range set by the Security Council, the calculations of an international panel of experts led us to the opposite conclusion.

Iraq has since accepted that these missiles and associated items be destroyed and has started the process of destruction under our supervision. 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.

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There is a significant Iraqi effort underway to clarify a major source of uncertainty as to the quantities of biological and chemical weapons which were unilaterally destroyed in 1991.

A part of this effort concerns a disposal site, which was deemed too dangerous for full investigation in the past. It is now being re-excavated. To date, Iraq has unearthed eight complete bombs comprising two liquid-filled intact R-400 bombs and six other complete bombs....

One can hardly avoid the impression that, after a period of somewhat reluctant cooperation, 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.

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The Iraqi side has tried on occasion to attach conditions, as it did regarding helicopters and U-2 planes. Iraq has not, however, so far persisted in these or other conditions for the exercise of any of our inspection rights. If it did, we would report it.

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.

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While cooperation can and is to be immediate, disarmament and at any rate the verification of it cannot be instant. Even with a proactive Iraqi attitude, induced by continued outside pressure, it would still take some time to verify sites and items, analyze documents, interview relevant persons and draw conclusions.

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It would not take years, nor weeks, but months. Neither governments nor inspectors would want disarmament inspection to go on forever. However, it must be remembered that in accordance with the governing resolutions, a sustained inspection and monitoring system is to remain in place after verified disarmament to give confidence and to strike an alarm if signs were seen of the revival of any proscribed weapons programs.

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