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Iraq should provide more evidence of 'substance,' chief UN inspector says

Iraq should provide more evidence of 'substance,' chief UN inspector says

Dr. Hans Blix
As the top United Nations disarmament officials prepare for another round of talks with Iraqi authorities this weekend, Hans Blix said today it is essential for Baghdad to actively produce any prohibited items or show "credible evidence" for their absence as a show of cooperation with the inspection process.

In a briefing to the UN Correspondents Association (UNCA) in New York, Mr. Blix said that the reactions that he's seen so far from Baghdad have not pointed to a full response on that issue. While discussions on Saturday in Baghdad will be continued on relatively minor topics such as surveillance flights by U2 planes and private interviews with individuals and scientists, he said, "I hope progress will be made on this but principally on the question of substance."

The principle way for Iraq to assure the UN inspectors and the Security Council of its cooperation is to "actively seek and present any items or programmes which are proscribed - or else if they are not there, to seek and present credible evidence for their absence," said Mr. Blix, Executive Chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC). "This is an essential point."

Mr. Blix, who is heading to Baghdad with Mohamed ElBaradei, Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), for talks on Saturday with senior Iraqi officials, further stressed that the main issue remains the weapons of mass destruction and their existence.

"Either present these if they exist - and we have not said they do - or evidence that convinces the world" they do not, he added. "For this mission I'd much rather have a presentation of whatever weapons remain and as promptly as one can reasonably expect the evidence that we have not seen before."

As for tomorrow's briefing to the Council by Secretary of State Colin Powell of the United States, Mr. Blix said it was unlikely that Mr. Powell would indicate any sites that the UN should visit because the US would have given those locations to the inspectors. "Judging from what he's written and what we've heard, it's more likely to be based on satellite imagery, intercepts of satellite communications, or knowledge about Iraqi procurement of technical material or chemicals," he said.

"I don't think a decision is final, that the end is there, that a date has been set for armed action," Mr. Blix said. "Not yet. But I think we are moving closer and closer to it and therefore it would seem to me that the Iraqi leadership must be well aware of that. It seems to me that they can do things that would change the situation."