After hearing an initial assessment by United Nations experts on Iraq’s declaration of its weapons programme, members of the Security Council today decided to hold further meetings on the issue, the President of the 15-nation body said.
In a brief statement to the press following the closed-door meeting, Ambassador Alfonso Valdivieso of Colombia said the Council would hold another meeting in early January after all members “finish their own analytical work of the Iraqi declaration.” He also voiced the intention of Council members to hear “more regular briefings” from UN experts.
During the consultations, the Council heard from Hans Blix, the head of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), and Mohamad ElBaradei, the Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), who indicated that Iraq’s declaration has failed to provide an adequate account of Baghdad’s nuclear, chemical and biological arms programmes.
Also speaking to reporters after the meeting, Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock of the United Kingdom said there was “no doubt” that the text contained omissions, and emphasized that Iraq must offer 100 per cent cooperation in order to satisfy the Security Council. Pledging that London would offer the inspectors information and support, he said, “we want them now to get down to hard questioning and robust inspections with 100 per cent Iraqi cooperation.”
Syrian Ambassador Mikhail Wehbe said he had attended the closed-door meeting without participating because the 10 non-permanent members of the Security Council had not received the full text of the declaration and so could not evaluate it. He stressed that Baghdad had fully cooperated with the UN weapons inspectors and had submitted its declaration on time, although Syria could not evaluate the substance of that text or be party to conclusions about it.
The Ambassador of the United States, John D. Negroponte, said Washington was “deeply disappointed that Iraq has again defied the Council’s demand and chosen deception and concealment over full disclosure.” The declaration “clearly shows that Iraq has spurned its last opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations,” he said, citing “material omissions that in our view constitute another material breach.” The onus, he said, is on Iraq “to prove that there is some other explanation besides the obvious one: that this declaration is just one more act of deception in a history of lies from a defiant dictator.” The US, he added, would continue to analyze the text while supporting the UN weapons inspection process.
Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sablière of France said the text “provides only few new elements” and voiced doubts about consistency. “The declaration has not clearly answered and resolved outstanding questions,” he said. “It doesn’t lift the doubts about the possible continuation by Iraq of prohibited activities since December 1998 when inspectors left the country.” The remaining “question marks” confirmed the need to go forward with the inspections process, he added. “It is precisely with a view to address and lift these uncertainties that the inspection mechanism has been established.” Only through UNMOVIC and the IAEA would the international community be able to verify Iraq’s activities.
Russian Ambassador Sergey Lavrov said it was not for individual Council members to judge the text; it was up to the Council as a whole, based on reports from UNMOVIC and the IAEA. The briefing today by those agencies was “a very preliminary assessment,” he said. “We agreed to listen to them again sometime in the first 10 days of January and we will be waiting for their report.” While there were many allegations that Iraq was continuing its efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction, no evidence had been provided. “We want this to be verified by professionals – by UNMOVIC and IAEA,” he said.
Video - press encounter of Council President Ambassador Alfonso Valdivieso