Iraq is 98 percent disarmed and no longer poses a threat to its neighbors, former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter said late on Wednesday, presenting a 90-minute documentary that flies in the face of US suspicions of Baghdad.
The ex-US Marine intelligence officer, who worked for the former United Nations arms inspection team in Iraq, UNSCOM, from 1991 to 1998 and was dubbed a US and Israeli spy by Iraq, said Iraqi authorities gave him plenty of freedom to film his documentary and interview the country's leaders.
In his film In Shifting Sands: The Truth About UNSCOM and the Disarming of Iraq, Ritter says in 1995 UNSCOM inspectors estimated that "98 percent of weapons were dismantled."
He was referring to weapons of mass destruction that Iraq was tasked with destroying after it lost the Gulf War in 1991.
"By 1995 Iraq had been fundamentally disarmed. The difficulty was to find a political way to get that conclusion endorsed by the Security Council," Ritter told a press briefing late on Wednesday.
Responding to US insistence that Baghdad never cooperated with the United Nations, Ritter said: "Iraq made more than its fair share of mistakes but Iraq did cooperate to a very significant degree with the UN inspection process.
"Iraq did comply to a very large level with its obligation to disarm," he added.
UN weapons inspections came to a halt in December 1998, when all UNSCOM personnel were pulled out of Iraq ahead of a US-British bombing campaign.
"The United States orchestrated the events that led to the demise of inspections," Ritter said.
In the documentary, he states that UNSCOM chief Richard Butler told his inspectors: "We've got to provoke a confrontation" with Iraq.
But despite the total absence of UN inspectors now, Ritter said he felt Iraq did not pose any danger.
"Between 1998 and 2001," he said, "Iraq has not had access to technology, Iraq has not had access to the funds required to significantly rebuild a meaningful weapons of mass destruction capability."
Ritter said the international community should lift the embargo it imposed on Iraq after Baghdad invaded Kuwait in August 1990, in exchange for long-term surveillance of Iraq's arsenals – UNITED NATIONS (AFP)
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