Only inspectors will see Iraqi declaration

By WILLIAM M. REILLY  |  Dec. 6, 2002 at 6:34 PM
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UNITED NATIONS, Dec. 6 (UPI) -- The U.N. Security Council decided Friday to place Iraq's weapons of mass destruction declaration, expected this weekend, only in the hands of weapons inspectors at first -- citing legal and security reasons -- and to receive a preliminary assessment of it from them next week before it is circulated any more widely.

Ambassador Alfonso Valdivieso of Colombia, this month's rotating president of the Security Council, announced the decision after hearing a briefing from the chief weapons inspector, Chairman Hans Blix of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission.

"We have decided to make UNMOVIC the depository and to ask UNMOVIC and the International Atomic Energy Agency (in Vienna) to review it immediately with their experts," Valdivieso said.

Iraq has said it would hand over the report on its alleged weapons and possible components on Saturday.

Blix, who said he understands it to be roughly 10,000 printed pages long and not digitized on CD-ROMs, said he expected it at headquarters in New York Sunday night and that he expected to brief the 15-member panel on the contents "early next week."

Valdivieso said making UNMOVIC, an arm of the council, the depository facilitates Baghdad's obligation to submit the declaration to the council by Sunday, without the council having to be present. The move also will "insure the confidentiality of the information" in the declaration. Information has a habit of leaking to the media when released to members of the council.

There are several international treaties prohibiting the proliferation of various weapons and it was feared information contained in the declaration "may contribute to proliferation" of weapons should it be made public, Valdivieso said.

"Members of the Security Council will meet next week to decide on the further handling of the declaration," after Blix's briefing, the council president said. "The document will not be available (to members of the council) for some days until this procedure is carried out and the mechanical and logistical arrangements are made. It has to be analyzed first, just to see the sensitivity."

Iraqi Ambassador Mohammed Aldouri said he was not releasing the declaration to the media because, "It will contain some information not for the public."

Asked about United States' accusations Iraq was hiding weapons of mass destruction, he replied, "Inspectors are now in Iraq. We are cooperating with them. They have the full access anywhere in Iraq. So if Americans have this evidence they have to tell inspectors to go and find this evidence. We are saying they will find nothing. There is no concealment in Iraq. This is very clear we have not to repeat it again."

"We have no destruction weapons at all," he said, adding that the report was "a huge one ... thousands, thousands" of pages long.

"Everything (proscribed weaponry) has been destroyed and we have no intention to do that again," he told reporters outside the council. "Iraq is clean of any kind of mass destruction weapons."

When Blix was asked by reporters about Washington's repeated accusations Iraq was hiding weapons of mass destruction, he said, "We would like to have as much information from any member state as to evidence that they may have on weapons of mass destruction and in particular sites. Because we are inspectors, we can go to sites. They may be listening to what's going on in the ether and they may have a lot of other sources of information, but we can go to the sites legitimately and legally and that's what we would like to have."

He pointed out that the resolution authorizing the tough new inspections seeks cooperation of governments in sharing information about suspect sites.

A spokesman for UNMOVIC, Ewen Buchanan, later told United Press International, "We are getting information." But he could not characterize the amount of it or from whom, for security reasons.

"We need timely information from as many sources as possible," Buchanan said. "We don't need stale stuff. We also need it from credible sources. There is a lot of disinformation out there."

When Blix was asked about interviewing Iraqi scientists, as authorized by the Security Council's resolution, he said, "We can ask for names under resolution 1441. We have lots of names from the past and we can certainly ask for interviews. We have not yet asked anyone for an interview. We will see what we can use."

Known not to be a fan of the paragraph authorizing private interviews and taking inspectors and their families out of Iraq for interviews, the international lawyer said, "The resolution gives us the right to do so. We can exercise it. We will get back to it when we are ready for it. I have said we are not going to abduct anybody and we are not serving as a defection agency. I stay by that. How we are going to make use of it is another matter. We'll see."

The New York Time reported Friday that U.S. officials are keen for inspectors to use their right to out-of-country interviews to facilitate defections by Iraqi scientists and engineers.

Blix, a Swede, dismissed a recent Baghdad allegation of spying by the current team saying, "We have recruited people differently (from the previous inspection regime) and I've declared very explicitly that if I were to find anyone who wore two hats that I will ask them to leave."

The previous inspection authority, the U.N. Special Commission or UNSCOM, was beset by allegations that its inspectors were involved in espionage, some of which were acknowledged.

But Blix said he saw no reason to criticize the current 11 UNMOVIC inspectors. "They are people with perfect integrity and they have done a good professional job and I will also say there have been no impediments placed in our way. We have had prompt access to sites all around. I am not using the word cooperation because it's a little early because if they were in fact hiding anything that wouldn't be cooperation. We haven't seen any evidence of such a thing."

In addition to the 11 there were six IAEA inspectors. However, the total number of inspectors is expected to nearly double next week and hit about 100 by year's end.

The 74-year-old Blix, said samples taken since inspections resumed Nov. 27 were being analyzed.

"When we go in with instruments perhaps taking samples, environmental testing and so forth, it takes some time before that is analyzed," Blix said. "So, I hope that these will come out negatively but it is a little early to say that."

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