Blix: No new evidence in fresh Iraqi documents, no need for more inspectors
Chief United Nations weapons inspector, Hans Blix, said Monday he saw no new evidence about Iraqi weapons during a visit to Baghdad and rejected European suggestions that more inspectors would help his hunt.
In an interview with Reuters at the end of a visit to Baghdad, Blix applauded some suggestions from Iraq to help his teams searching for weapons of mass destruction, but said all-out Iraqi cooperation was the only way for Baghdad to prove it did not have banned weapons.
"This time they presented some papers to us in which they focused upon new issues. Not new evidence really as far as I can see, but they have nevertheless focused on real, open issues and that is welcome," Blix said on arrival in Athens.
Asked if war was now inevitable, Blix replied: "That's not for me to answer. We are to report on the progress of inspections ... to the Security Council. And it is the council, its members and Iraq ... who determine whether we get to disarmament through inspections or disarmament through arms."
Asked whether more inspectors could do a better, faster job, he said: "The principal problem is not the number of inspectors but rather the active cooperation of the Iraqi side, as we have said many times."
Blix said that Iraq, in a sign of cooperation, had promised to drill into the ground to prove it had destroyed banned weapons, and also had suggested new methods of investigation for his weapon inspectors to better prove its case.
"They themselves suggested new physical signs, new methods of investigating whether material they declared unilaterally destroyed, whether it was actually there."
There would be methods to ascertain whether liquids dropped on the ground could still be detected. "I do not have any assessment yet from my scientific people whether it's feasible but it was a constructive proposal," Blix said.
He said Iraq had set up a special commission under the leadership of former Oil Minister Amar Rashid "to go through the country and open doors. That's a hopeful sign."
"If there are any documents which have been destroyed in a particular area, then it's all the more important that you are able to talk to people," Blix stated. "There must be a lot of people who have been engaged in these programs. It will be desirable to meet and talk to them under circumstances of credibility."
On the need for interviews with military officers and factory managers who might have been involved in weapons programs, Blix said his teams were still meeting problems. "We have some difficulties. The individuals themselves insisted on Iraqi representatives being present," he said.
On the separate issue of interviewing Iraqi scientists alone, he told Reuters: "We have had some interviews now. A few have been without any Iraq representatives and any tape recorder present and I hope for better evolution in that area." (Albawaba.com)
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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