After 11 weeks of inspections, United Nations monitors have not found any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but Baghdad still needs to show "credible" evidence that such arms do not exist, a top UN disarmament official told the Security Council today.
In a progress report to a ministerial-level meeting of the Council, Hans Blix, who is in charge of the biological, chemical and ballistic profile, said that after more than 400 inspections at over 300 sites around the country, the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) has so far found only a small number of empty chemical munitions that should have been declared and destroyed.
"Another matter, and one of great significance, is that many proscribed weapons and items are not accounted for," Mr. Blix, Executive Chairman of UNMOVIC, said at the outset of the Council meeting chaired by Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer of Germany, which holds the rotating Presidency of the 15-nation body for the month of February. "One must not jump to the conclusion that they exist; however, that possibility is not excluded. If they exist they should be presented for destruction. If they do not exist, credible evidence to that effect should be presented."
Mr. Blix noted again that cooperation by the Iraqi authorities on procedure has been good, but stressed that cooperation on substance was indispensable and required more than the just open doors. "In the current situation, one would expect Iraq to be eager to comply," he added.
While his team has obtained a good knowledge of the industrial and scientific landscape of Iraq, as well as of its missile capability, through the inspections conducted so far, Mr. Blix said, "As before, we do not know every cave and corner." In addition to visits, some 300 chemical and biological samples have been collected and the destruction of approximately 50 litres of mustard gas has begun.
Mr. Blix reported that a group of missile experts he had convened has concluded unanimously that, based on the data provided by Iraq, the two declared variants of the Al Samoud 2 missile were capable of exceeding 150 kilometres in range, which is proscribed by Security Council resolutions.
The UNMOVIC chief also noted that the Commission will start using U2 surveillance planes next week and that arrangements are being made to also use Mirage aircraft for surveillance flights. "It is our intention to examine the possibilities for surveying ground movements, notably by trucks," Mr. Blix said. "In the face of persistent intelligence reports, for instance, about mobile biological weapons production units, such measures could well increase the effectiveness of inspections."
Mr. Blix said that if Iraq had provided the necessary cooperation in 1991, the phase of disarmament could have been short and a decade of sanctions could have been avoided. "Today, three months after the adoption of resolution 1441, the period of disarmament through inspection could still be short, if 'immediate, active and unconditional cooperation' with UNMOVIC and the IAEA were to be forthcoming," he said.
of Blix's statement to the Council