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Straw, Powell Question Latest Iraqi "Disarmament" Moves

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 10, 2003 – The items that Hans Blix reported as progress to the U.N. Security Council are the same items British Foreign Minister Jack Straw cites as examples of Iraqi noncooperation.

In his report to the Security Council, Blix, the U.N. chief weapons inspector, called the Iraqi destruction of al Samoud-2 missiles "real disarmament." Speaking in the House of Commons today, Straw called the partial destruction of the prohibited missiles "only the tip of the iceberg of Iraq's illegal weapons program."

He said the full extent of the iceberg is revealed in the U.N. weapons inspector's report, "Unresolved Disarmament Issues -- Iraq's Proscribed Weapons Program." The report is a "chilling catalogue of evasion and deceit, of feigning cooperation while in reality, pursuing concealment," Straw said.

The report details "the terrible nature of the weapons which Saddam has sought with such determination to develop," he said. "The sheer scale of Iraq's efforts to develop these weapons and then to hide them can only be grasped by reading the whole document."

Straw gave one illustration from the report out of 29 separate sets of unresolved issues.

"Contrary to Iraqi assertions," he said, "the inspectors found evidence of anthrax where Iraq had declared that there was none. Again, contrary to Iraqi assertions, UNMOVIC believes there's a strong presumption that some 10,000 liters of anthrax were not destroyed in the early 1990s and may still exist."

Iraq possesses the technology and the material to allow it to return swiftly to the pre-1991 production levels for anthrax. Straw noted that anthrax is easily inhaled and the death rate in humans on untreated victims may be 90 percent or more. "Only tiny amounts are needed to inflict widespread casualties," he said.

Straw also squarely faced calls by other nations for more time to allow the U.N. inspectors to carry on their duties.

"I fully recognize the temptation to believe that the inspections are working and that all that is needed is more time," he said. "But Saddam Hussein is a master of playing for time. And frankly, as anyone can see from reading the UNMOVIC document, to continue inspections with no firm end date will not achieve the disarmament required by the Security Council."

Straw welcomed the fact that the International Atomic Energy Agency's report found no evidence of a reconstituted Iraqi nuclear program. But nuclear facilities are more difficult to build and less easy to conceal than facilities for producing biological or chemical weapons, he noted.

Straw said the world has a clear choice. "The choice before us is whether we stand firm in pursuing our objective of disarmament, or settle for a policy which in truth allows Saddam to rebuild his arsenal under cover of just enough cooperation to keep the inspectors tied down for years to come," he said.

Even at this late stage, Straw said he still hopes the Iraqi regime will seize the chance to disarm peacefully.

"The only other peaceful alternative would be for Saddam Hussein to heed the calls of a number of other Arab leaders to go into exile and to hand over to a new leadership prepared to conform with the Security Council's demands," he said. "But if he refuses to cooperate, then the Security Council has to face up to its clear responsibilities under the United Nations charter."

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell also commented on the Blix report today. After a meeting at the State Department with Guinean Foreign Minister Francois Fall, Powell said he is worried by information in the UNMOVIC report that Blix didn't address in his presentation to the Security Council.

Powell referred to the report's discussion about a drone aircraft and a videotape that is said to show the testing of a bomb that can spread chemical or biological agents.

"I think we should be concerned," he said. "It seems to me that this information on the drones, which I know UNMOVIC was evaluating, but it was information that was available last week and should be of concern to everyone.

"Iraq continues to demonstrate that it has not really changed its strategic intent, which is the case we've been making all along," Powell continued. "So we're concerned about that, and I think other information will be coming forward that suggests Iraq has really not changed."

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