Senior UN officials brief Security Council on return of weapons inspectors to Iraq
In a press statement released after the closed-door meeting, the Council President said the members "thanked [UNMOVIC Executive Chairman Hans] Blix and [IAEA Director-General Mohammed] ElBaradei and took note of the conclusions they had drawn from their discussions with the Iraqi authorities."
Speaking to reporters after the consultations, Mr. Blix said existing Council resolutions provided the requisite authority for the inspectors to return. "We can go back there, no one denies that we have a legal basis for doing that," he said. "The question was whether one should solve every practical arrangement - we solved a good deal in Vienna - but there are matters and some loose ends that need to be resolved before we go to Baghdad."
Mr. Blix noted that the Council could also work on the text of a new resolution. "It would be awkward if we were doing inspections and then a new mandate with new changed directives were to arrive - it would be better to have those early," he said. "My impression is that there is a good deal of intensity in the talks about that, and we would abide by whatever the Council adopts."
Inspectors, he added, "are ready to go at the earliest practical opportunity."
Asked if there would be a delay, he said, "If the Council puts some new suggestions or directives to us, of course, we are in their hands."
To a question on the presidential sites covered under a memorandum of understanding endorsed by the Council in 1998, he said those areas "are not sanctuaries in the sense that they cannot be inspected; there is a special procedure laid down for it and we are bound by that." At the same time, he noted that the procedure did not allow the same immediate inspections as would be possible at other sites. "I think the Council will consider that," he added.
Mr. ElBaradei said, "we would like to do effective inspections - that means immediate, unrestricted inspections to all sites in Iraq."
Stressing the need to resolve practical issues, Mr. ElBaradei said, "We need to align our dates with the deliberations of the Council and I think there was an agreement in the Council that both the Council and us should proceed without a great deal of delay."
"We need unanimous support by the Security Council to be able to do effective inspections," he added.