Blix: Iraq Has Not Accepted Disarmament

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Top weapons inspector Hans Blix said Monday that Baghdad had not genuinely accepted U.N. resolutions demanding that it disarm. His nuclear counterpart said there was no evidence so far that Iraq was reviving its nuclear program and said inspectors needed a "few months" to complete the search.

The White House said the Iraqis had not been cooperative enough and repeated that Baghdad was "running out of time."

"When people say give them more time, the more time they get the more time they get the run-around," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said. "Iraq is giving the inspectors the run-around."

Iraq's Ambassador Mohammed al-Douri said: "We open all doors to Mr. Blix and his team. If there is something, he will find it. We have no hidden reports at all. They have to read carefully this report."

Blix, head of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, said Baghdad had cooperated on access but not substance.

"Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance, not even today, of the disarmament that was demanded of it," Blix said as he reported on 60 days of weapons inspections.

Touching on the question of how much time inspectors need, Blix said he shared "the sense of urgency" to achieve disarmament within "a reasonable period of time." U.N. nuclear weapons chief inspector Mohamed ElBaradei said his teams should not be hampered by deadlines.

"We have to date found no evidence that Iraq has revived its nuclear program since the elimination of the program in the 1990s. However, our work is steadily progressing and should be allowed to run its natural course," ElBaradei said.

"With our verification system now in place, barring exceptional circumstances and provided there is sustained proactive cooperation by Iraq we should be able within the next few months to provide credible assurance that Iraq has no nuclear weapons program.

"These few months would be a valuable investment in peace because it could help avoid a war," ElBaradei said.

Blix said three questions remain unanswered:

-How much illicit weapons material might remain undeclared and intact from before the Persian Gulf War in 1991 and possible thereafter.

-What, if anything was illegally procured or produced since the end of the war.

-How the world can prevent any weapons of mass destruction from being produced or procured in the future.

Blix noted that Iraq's 12,000 page arms declaration contained little more than old material previously submitted to inspectors. One exception was an air force document which indicates that Iraq ha failed to account for some 6,000 chemical rockets.

"The finding of the rockets show that Iraq needs to make more effort to show that its declaration is currently accurate."

Blix said inspectors have also discovered a mustard gas precursor during recent inspections.

"Regrettably the 12,000-page declaration, most of which is a reprint of earlier documents, does not seem to contain any new evidence that will eliminate the questions or reduce their number."

On the nerve agent VX, which Iraq is believed to have weaponized on the eve of the Gulf War, Blix said the Iraqis haven't sufficiently answered questions regarding the fate of its stockpiles.

On biological weapons, Blix said Iraq had failed to produce "convincing evidence" that it unilaterally destroyed its anthrax stockpiles and that there are indications that Iraq could have had larger quantities than it reported to inspectors.

"In the fields of missiles and biotechnology, the declaration contains a good deal of new material and information covering the period from 1998 and onward. This is welcome."

He said he would ask the Iraqis to stop tests of two types of missiles while inspectors determine the actual range and capabilities of the missiles.

In sharp contrast to the Bush administration's stance that inspections have run their course, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan also said inspectors should be given more time to their jobs.

"They should be given the time to do their work and all of us, the council and the assembly, must realize that time will be necessary, a reasonable amount of time, I'm not saying forever, but they do need time to get their work done and I suspect the council will allow that to be done," Annan told reporters.

On Monday, Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri said that his nation has cooperated fully with weapons inspectors and he accused the United States and Britain of setting the stage for an unjustified attack.

He said accusations against Iraq by U.S. officials were "all lies to hide America's true intentions" which he said were to take control of his nation's oil resources and protect "America's interests in Israel."

Despite assurances from Iraq that it would encourage its scientists to submit to private interviews, no such interviews have taken place and Baghdad continues to block inspectors from using a U-2 reconnaissance plane that could be helpful in the hunt for weapons of mass destruction.

In addition, U.N. teams found thousands of pertinent documents hidden in the home of an Iraqi scientist, at least 16 empty and undeclared chemical warheads and illegally imported parts for its missile program.

Any false statements or omissions in Iraq's arms declaration, coupled with a failure to comply with and cooperate fully in the implementation of the resolution, would place Baghdad in "material breach" of its obligations - a finding that could open the door for war.

In Davos, Switzerland, Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sunday that he believed the inspections had run their course, though he did not explicitly call for their end.

Most of the Security Council believes that's a determination they must make based on the inspectors' assessments. The 15 members of the Security Council will reconvene Wednesday, a day after President Bush delivers the State of the Union address, to discuss the inspectors' reports and begin debate on Iraq.

In Brussels, Belgium, the European Union on Monday urged Baghdad to cooperate more fully with United Nations arms inspectors but remained deeply divided over how to solve the overall crisis.