Accessibility links

Breaking News

UN Mulls Continuing WMD Monitoring Regime

The United Nations Security Council is coming under increasing pressure from the Iraqi interim government to close the United Nations Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), which was established in 1999 to verify Iraq's compliance in ridding itself of its weapons of mass destruction.

The Iraqi government argues that the commission costs the country $12 million annually. Iraq is also set to provide the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) $12.3 million over the next two years for its monitoring of the country. Both the IAEA and UNMOVIC pulled out of Iraq on the eve of Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003. The IAEA briefly returned to Iraq in 2004 to carry out a limited inspection.

Iraqi Ambassador to the UN Samir al-Sumaydi'i told the Security Council -- in a letter ahead of the council's 8 March meeting to review the latest UNMOVIC quarterly report -- that the two bodies have become "irrelevant," reported. The ambassador also called on the Security Council to transfer some $400 million in oil revenues still held in a UN account to the Development Fund for Iraq. The UN has also allocated $30 million of revenues from the oil-for-food program to investigate fraud and corruption allegations related to the world body's administration of the program (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 15 October 2004). Al-Sumaydi'i also told the council in his letter that the "new Iraq" has no intention of embarking on any new weapons programs and hence "cannot possibly represent [the] source of [a] threat," reported.
"What happened to the 25 Al-Sumud-2 missiles and the 326 SA2 engines that UN inspectors didn't have time to destroy before they left."

The AP reported on 27 February that the U.S. supports the call to end inspections in Iraq and has begun "low-key talks" with other Security Council members. "This is a very important issue and one that we have been discussing for quite some time with the Iraqis and now with key members of the Security Council," Richard Grenell, spokesman for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, said on 25 February. "Those discussions continue."

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Yuri Fedotov, who sits on UNMOVIC's board of commissioners, said on 24 February that the board discussed how the possible closing of UNMOVIC "could have an impact on the process of what we call the final clarification of disarmament in Iraq," AP reported. "There is a broad feeling" that the Security Council should address the issue with the participation of UNMOVIC and the IAEA, he said. "The mandate to UNMOVIC and IAEA was given by the Security Council and the Security Council can make another decision, take an action, in order to modify or to bring an end to this mandate," he added.

Security Council President Ronaldo Mota Sardenberg, of Brazil, told reporters on 8 March: "What seems clear now is that the idea that the mandate should be revisited is becoming a reality. This is now the next step for the council," KUNA reported the same day. Sardenberg would not say when the Security Council might address the issue, adding: "The idea would be to wait for the full constitution of the new Iraqi government so that there would be a partner for consultations." Consultations could start before national elections are held in December, he said.

UNMOVIC Acting Executive Chairman Demetrius Perricos told the Security Council in his 8 March briefing on the 28 February quarterly UNMOVIC report that a number of issues would need to be addressed before the council closes the books on monitoring by the commission in Iraq, AP reported. Perricos reportedly asked whether the U.S.-led Iraq Survey Group's October report (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 8 October 2004) on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was the final word or if there was room for an independent assessment of Iraq's disarmament and, if so, who should carry out that assessment. Iraq Survey Group head Charles Duelfer told two U.S. congressional committees in Washington, D.C., on 6 October that the group had not uncovered evidence that the Saddam Hussein regime possessed weapons of mass destruction at the time of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

Perricos also told the Security Council that key questions remained unanswered, including the fate of hundreds of damaged chemical artillery rockets and toxic chemicals under UN seal at the Al-Muthanna complex northwest of Baghdad. "What happened to the 25 Al-Sumud-2 missiles and the 326 SA2 engines that UN inspectors didn't have time to destroy before they left?" Perricos asked. He also raised the issue of monitoring for unspecified dual-use items, reported.

The 28 February quarterly report noted the looting and razing of sites that contained dual-use equipment and materials subject to monitoring. "The continuing examination of site imagery has revealed that approximately 90 of the total 353 sites analyzed [since the last quarterly report] containing equipment and materials of relevance have been stripped and/or razed. Commission experts have also noted that repairs and new construction have begun at 10 sites," the report noted.

The report further reiterated the need -- outlined in the previous quarterly report -- to adjust monitoring procedures "with respect to small quantities of weapons of mass destruction. While they may not be of military significance, they may be of potential interest to nonstate actors," the report said. "Small quantities of such materials could be acquired through clandestine procurement networks," the report contended.

Another issue of concern detailed in the report is the possible existence of "seed stocks" that might be used in the future for the production of biological-weapon agents. There is a "residue of uncertainty" as to whether those stocks continue to exist, the report noted. "Given its unresolvable nature, the issue could best be dealt with through monitoring to detect inter alia any possible future activity associated with biological weapon agent production or significant related laboratory research work," the report contended.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

If you are in Russia or the Russia-controlled parts of Ukraine and hold a Russian passport or are a stateless person residing permanently in Russia or the Russia-controlled parts of Ukraine, please note that you could face fines or imprisonment for sharing, liking, commenting on, or saving our content, or for contacting us.

To find out more, click here.