The Security Council this morning heard formal briefings by the heads of the weapons inspections regime in Iraq, Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, on the first 60 days of their work, fulfilling a requirement of resolution 1441 (2002), on which the current inspections are based.
The Executive Chairman of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), Hans Blix, said UNMOVIC shared the sense of urgency felt by the Council to use inspection as a path to attain, within a reasonable time, the verifiable disarmament of Iraq. Recalling that Security Council resolution 1441 (2002) had emphatically reaffirmed the demand on Iraq to cooperate, he said it would appear that Iraq had decided in principle to provide cooperation on substance in order to complete the disarmament task through inspection.
At the same time, he drew attention to some outstanding issues and questions. On the nerve agent VX -- one of the most toxic ever developed -- he recalled Iraq had declared that it had produced VX only on a pilot scale and, with poor quality, had never weaponized it. But, UNMOVIC had conflicting information, including indications that the agent had been weaponized. A number of chemical bombs containing some 1,000 tonnes of chemical agent were unaccounted for, and several thousand chemical rockets were unaccounted for.
On biological agents, he said Iraq had provided little evidence for its declared production of 8,500 litres of anthrax and no convincing evidence of its destruction, which it stated it had unilaterally done in 1991. There were strong indications that Iraq had produced more anthrax than it had declared, and that at least some of that had been retained after the declared destruction date. A significant quantity of imported bacterial growth media sufficient to produce about 5,000 litres of concentrated anthrax had not been declared.
Pointing to a range of developments in the missile field during the past four years, which had been presented by Iraq as non-proscribed activities, he said that significant questions remained as to whether Iraq had retained SCUD-type missiles after the Gulf War. Also, Iraq had refurbished its missile production infrastructure. In particular, it had reconstituted a number of casting chambers that had been destroyed under United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) supervision. Whatever missile system those chambers were intended for, they could produce motors for missiles capable of ranges significantly greater than 150 kilometres, Mr. Blix said.
The Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, told the Council that to date the Agency had found no evidence that Iraq had revived its nuclear weapons programme since the elimination of its programme in the 1990s. However, the Agencyâ€™s work was steadily progressing and should be allowed to run its natural course.
Good progress had been made in the past two months in the Agencyâ€™s knowledge of Iraqâ€™s nuclear capabilities, with a total of 139 inspections at some 106 locations to date, he said. While the Agency was continuing with its reconnaissance work, inspections were now well into the â€œinvestigativeâ€ phase, with particular emphasis on determining what, if anything, had occurred in Iraq over the past four years relevant to the re-establishment of nuclear capabilities. Thus far, no prohibited nuclear activities had been identified during inspections of those buildings and facilities identified as having been modified or constructed during that period.
A particular issue of focus, he continued, had been the attempted procurement by Iraq of high strength aluminium tubes, and the question of whether those tubes, if acquired, could be used for the manufacture of nuclear centrifuges. From the Agencyâ€™s analysis to date, it appeared that the aluminium tubes would be consistent with the purpose stated by Iraq and, unless modified, would not be suitable for manufacturing centrifuges. While inspectors were still investigating that issue, it was clear that the attempt to acquire such tubes was prohibited under Council resolution 687 (1991).
Another area of focus, he said, had been to determine how certain other â€œdual useâ€ materials had been relocated or used Â- that was, materials that could be used in nuclear weapons production but also have other legitimate uses. A fourth focal point had been the investigation of reports of Iraqi efforts to import uranium after 1991, which Iraqi authorities had denied.
â€œWith 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 programmeâ€, he said. â€œThese few months would be a valuable investment in peace because they could help us avoid a war.â€
He had emphasized to Iraqi officials the need to shift from passive support -Â that is, responding as needed to inspectorsâ€™ requests -Â to proactive support Â- that is, voluntarily assisting inspectors by providing documentation, people and other evidence that would assist in filling the remaining gaps in the Agencyâ€™s information. Iraq's proactive engagement would be in its own best interest and was a window of opportunity that might not remain open for very much longer, he said.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan attended todayâ€™s meeting. The representative of Iraq had been invited to participate. Before the briefings, a letter was circulated to Council members from the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iraq concerning interviews with Iraqi scientists. It would be circulated as a Security Council document.
The meeting began at 10:40 a.m. and was adjourned at 11:36 a.m. (ends)
Click here for rest of above press release, including summary of statements by the Chief Inspectors, on the UN website (scroll down page)
Click here for statement to the Security Council by Dr. Hans Blix, Executive Chairman of UNMOVIC,
(UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission) on the UN website
Click here for statement to the Security Council by Mohamed ElBaradei, Director General, International Atomic Energy Agency.