Offering an initial assessment of the declaration by Iraq on its weapons programme, lead United Nations weapons inspectors told the Security Council today that the text leaves many questions unanswered.
Hans Blix, the Executive Chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), told reporters after his closed-door briefing to the Council that there was “relatively little” evidence given in the declaration on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programmes since the provision of some material concerning the period between 1998 and 2002, when there were no UN inspections. Analysis of the document is continuing, he added.
Mohamed ElBaradei, the Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), agreed that further work would be needed, including on the ground, to assess Iraq’s declaration. He emphasized that so far, Baghdad has been supporting the work of the inspectors. “We are making good progress in having access to sites – Iraq is cooperating well in terms of process,” he said, adding, “We still need much more cooperation from Iraq in terms of substance, in terms of coming up with evidence to exonerate themselves that they are clean from weapons of mass destruction.”
“If they come with additional information, then our task will be much shorter, much easier, our conclusion will be much more credible,” Mr. ElBaradei said, reporting a sense among Council members that “Iraq needs to come with additional information.”
Asked about gaps in the declaration, Mr. Blix said, “there were a lot of open questions at the end of 1998…and these have not been answered by evidence in the new declaration.” The absence of that evidence means “one cannot have confidence that there do not remain weapons of mass destruction.”
To a question on specific outstanding issues, he said, “it’s a long catalogue.”
Offering one example, Mr. ElBaradei said Iraq had reportedly made efforts to procure aluminium tubes. “There is nothing in this [declaration] to give us details about this,” he said. “We need more details on it.”
Mr. Blix said there were also open questions regarding anthrax. “Iraq declared earlier that they had produced about 8,500 litres of anthrax, and there was not sufficient evidence to demonstrate that it was limited to 8,500, so we must ask ourselves was there more?” he said.
UNMOVIC’s predecessor, the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM), had calculated that Baghdad had the capacity to produce about 24,000 litres. Iraq had declared that it destroyed its stockpile, Mr. Blix added, and while there was evidence that some had been destroyed, “there was not sufficient evidence to show that all was destroyed, hence there is the question: is there still some anthrax in Iraq?”
“An opportunity was missed in the declaration to give a lot of evidence,” said Mr. Blix. “They can still provide it, and I hope they will provide it to us orally, but it would have been better if it had been in the declaration.”
Video - press encounter of Mohamed ElBaradei and Hans Blix