Inspectors to start mission on Wednesday while Baghdad insists it has no banned weapons
United Nations weapons inspectors prepared on Tuesday to launch their mission in Iraq. The first group of inspectors was due on Wednesday to begin the search.
chief UN arms inspector Hans Blix told reporters on Monday Iraq must present convincing evidence to support its assertion it has no weapons of mass destruction.
"The production of mustard gas is not exactly the same as production of marmalade," Blix said after briefing the United Nations Security Council on preparations for inspections, AFP reported.
"You expect those who produce chemical weapons to keep track. It is in their own interests to do so," Blix said. "They provided a lot of figures to UNSCOM in the past," he went on. "These figures do not give a full account, and if they want to be believed they had better provide a better account," he added.
Blix said he told the council that "the most important thing" was for Iraq to make a full declaration of its nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs, as required by the resolution.
Blix was quoted as saying: "If the Iraqi side were to state -- as it still did at our meeting -- that there were no such programs, it would need to provide convincing documentary or other evidence."
Blix said Iraq reiterated during meetings in Baghdad last week that it doesn't have any weapons of mass destruction.
Blix said Iraqi officials told him they intend to cooperate fully with U.N. inspectors. "Some members of the council said that so far so good, and I think that's true, but ... we do not have any illusions that it's an easy job laid upon us," he said.
On the critical issue of access, Iraqi officials remarked during last week's talks "that the entry into a presidential site or a ministry was not exactly the same thing as entry into a factory," Blix said, according to his briefing notes.
"That is undeniable," he told reporters afterward, but he stressed that "the council authorizes us to go anywhere, anytime and we intend to do so."
Blix said he would have 100 inspectors on the ground by Christmas and that logistics were being rapidly strengthened. He said he wants to open a field office in the northern city of Mosul "without delay."
"Thanks to assistance from the government of New Zealand we already have communications people and medics in place and before the end of the week, we may have the first of eight helicopters in Baghdad," he said.
Blix told the council that the Iraqis had expressed "some uncertainty," about how it should prepare the declaration of all nuclear, chemical and biological programs.
Asked whether he was being pushed by the United States to be more aggressive and confrontational, Blix said, "We may not be the brightest in the world, but I can tell you we're in nobody's pockets." (Albawaba.com)
© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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