Outlining disarmament tasks for Iraq, Blix laments lack of time for inspections
Top United Nations arms inspector Hans Blix today presented a work programme to the Security Council on the key remaining tasks for disarming Iraq, expressing also his sadness that inspections had run out of time and that it appeared war was "imminent."
In his remarks to the Council, which also heard from Gustavo Zlauvinen, a representative for Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mr. Blix, the Executive Chairman of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), pointed out that he had speeded up the presentation of the work plan from 27 March to last Monday at the request of the Council. "I note that on the very same day we were constrained together with other UN units to order the withdrawal of all our inspectors and other international staff from Iraq," he said.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan ordered the withdrawal of UN personnel - including the UNMOVIC and IAEA inspectors, the UN agencies, programmes and funds implementing the humanitarian oil-for-food programme and the UN observers in the demilitarized zone along the Iraq-Kuwait border - after receiving advice from the United Kingdom and the United States over the weekend regarding their continued safety and security in the region.
"I naturally feel sadness that three and months of work carried out in Iraq have not brought the assurances needed about the absence of weapons of mass destruction or other proscribed items in Iraq, that no more time is available for our inspections and that armed action now seems imminent," Mr. Blix told the Council at the outset of its meeting, which was chaired by Foreign Minister François Lonseny Fall of Guinea.
Mr. Blix also told the Council that Iraq had recently provided further information on a number of unresolved issues, and that these efforts by Iraq should be acknowledged, although "the value of the information thus provided must be soberly judged." UNMOVIC experts, he added, "have found so far that in substance only limited new information has been provided that will help to resolve remaining questions."
Noting that the work programme, which was prepared by a large staff of UNMOVIC inspectors and other resources, would seem to have only limited practical relevance in the current situation, Mr. Blix stressed that UNMOVIC was a subsidiary organ of the Council. Until the Council took a new decision on the Commission’s role and functions, previous resolutions remained valid to the extent practicable and “it is evidently for the Council to consider the next steps,” he said.