Tough Talk
Blix Raps Iraq for Gaps in Arms Document
Reuters
U N I T E D  N A T I O N S, Jan. 27 — Chief U.N. arms inspector Hans Blix today sharply criticized Iraq for not giving enough evidence on its past weapons of mass destruction programs but did not corroborate U.S. claims that Baghdad had rebuilt its arsenal.

Blix was addressing the U.N. Security Council after two months of inspections, outlining in detail gaps in information Iraq should have delivered in a 12,000-page arms declaration on Dec. 7.  But he said the omissions could not lead him to conclude Baghdad had prohibited arms.

"Iraq appears not to have come to genuine acceptance, not even today, of the disarmament that was demanded of it," Blix said. But he said his disarmament commission was "not presuming there were proscribed items in Iraq." Nor, he said, was he "assuming that no such items exist in Iraq."

After two months and more than 350 inspections, the report by inspectors Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, in charge of nuclear teams, are fueling U.S. arguments in favor of war but prompting other nations, including France and Russia, to say that inspections should go on.

ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, made a direct appeal for more time in his address to the council and said he had found no evidence that "Iraq has revived its nuclear weapons program."

Negroponte Says Report Offers No Hope

Even before the report was delivered, U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte told reporters Iraq has not come forth with a full and complete declaration of its weapons and had not cooperated immediately and unconditionally.

After the report Negroponte said he had heard nothing to change his mind, adding inspections alone cannot achieve disarmament "when a country has an active program of denial and deception as is the case with Iraq."

To underline the Bush administration's aims, Secretary of State Colin Powell, on the eve of the report, said the United States would go to war against Iraq alone if European allies would not join the fight, regardless of inspections.

Unanswered Questions

Blix, a 74-year-old Swedish diplomat in charge of chemical, biological and ballistic arms teams, earlier listed a series of unresolved issues, which he repeated today.

He has said that documents Iraq submitted in a 12,000-page weapons declaration submitted on Dec. 7 have not answered questions, including one about the whereabouts of the deadly VX nerve gas, 2 tons of nutrients or growth media for biological agents, such as anthrax, and 550 artillery shells filled with mustard gas and 6,500 chemical bombs.

His teams have also found that Iraq, which says all weapons had been accounted for or destroyed since the 1991 Gulf War, obtained missile engines as well as raw material for rocket fuel and chemical agents, a violation of an arms embargo that is part of 12-year-old U.N. sanctions.

And despite assurances from Iraq that it would encourage its scientists to submit to private interviews, no such talks have taken place and Baghdad has blocked the use of U-2 surveillance flights over all parts of Iraq.

But at the same time the inspectors have not found evidence of banned activity or production facilities at any of the sites investigated that the United States says exist.

Both Britain, whose officials briefed reporters on intelligence findings on Sunday, and the United States say they have evidence of Iraq squirreling missile parts out of a production site or trucks leaving facilities during inspections. Blix, after his return from Baghdad, said Iraq had generally opened all sites to inspectors, who had not found "any hidden large quantities of anything."

Documents Discovered in Scientist’s Home

Blix's teams, however, found thousands of documents hidden in the home of an Iraqi scientist, and at least 16 empty and undeclared chemical warheads, which he said were being tested and analyzed.

The U.N. Security Council debates the crisis on Wednesday, amid strong signs the United States has delayed a formal decision to go to war for several weeks. Germany, which holds the rotating presidency of the council for February, would like another report from inspectors on Feb. 14.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has sent thousands of troops to join a U.S. military build-up in the Gulf, has also said inspections should continue for a bit longer.

In Davos, Powell said the United States would carefully study the report of the inspectors and consult other members of the deeply divided U.N. Security Council before acting. But he made clear time was running out.

"We will not shrink from war if that is the only way to rid Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction," Powell said. "When we feel strongly about something, we will lead; we will act, even if others are not prepared to join us."
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