Iraq Declaration 'Deliberate Effort to Deceive'
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 9, 2003 After reviewing Iraq's declaration to the U.N. Security Council for a month, U.S. officials feel the document is "a deliberate attempt to deceive by material omissions."
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Negroponte told reporters at U.N. headquarters today in New York that the Iraqi declaration of Dec. 7 constitutes "a further material breech" of Security Council Resolution 1441.
Resolution 1441, passed by unanimous vote Nov. 8, 2002, was intended to be Iraq's last chance to disarm peacefully. U.S. and international leaders have repeatedly urged Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to disarm to prevent military action against his regime.
Iraq declared in the 12,000-page document that it has no such weapons. American officials maintain this is false. Negroponte said today that the report fails to answer "numerous outstanding questions."
Previous U.N. inspectors left Iraq in 1998 after years of noncompliance with various Security Council resolutions on Iraq's part. At the time they reported Iraq had enough supplies and equipment to produce 26,000 liters of anthrax and more than 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin, another biological agent that can be fatal within days of exposure.
The inspectors still have questions about several other items Iraq is believed to have had, including the chemical agent VX, missile engines and materials for making solid rocket fuel.
"The declaration, regrettably, has not helped very much to clarify any question marks of the past," Chief U.N. Weapons Inspector Hans Blix said in New York today.
He and Mohamed ElBaradei, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency were there to brief the Security Council on their progress. They said they expect to brief again Jan. 27.
ElBaradei said today that the inspectors need better cooperation from Iraq. He specifically mentioned displeasure that inspectors haven't been able to interview Iraqi scientists inside Iraq without government "minders" present.
"That does not indicate the proactive cooperation we expect from Iraq," ElBaradei said. The inspectors' next move could be to interview scientists outside Iraq. Resolution 1441 expressly permits the inspectors to take willing scientists and their families out of Iraq to avoid government coercion.
Iraqi government officials have been actively telling international media representatives that they are cooperating with inspectors and pointing out that no weapons of mass destruction have been found in the country.
According to a transcript released by the United Nations, Blix told the Security Council members today that the matter isn't so simple. "The absence of `smoking guns' and the prompt access which we have had so far and which is most welcome, is no guarantee that prohibited stocks or activities could not exist at other sites, whether above ground, underground or in mobile units," he said.