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UN: Blix Says Burden Of Proof On Iraq To Show Compliance

United Nations, 26 November 2002 (RFE/RL)-- The top United Nations weapons inspector, Hans Blix, says Iraq will need to provide substantial proof if it plans to declare it no longer possesses weapons of mass destruction.

Blix told the UN Security Council yesterday that Iraq must give what he called "convincing documentary or other evidence" to show it no longer supported programs to develop nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons.

He told reporters after the briefing that he expected Iraqi authorities to provide more information than they gave in their declarations to the previous UN inspection mission, known as UNSCOM. "The have provided a lot of figures to UNSCOM in the past. These figures do not give a full account, and if they want to be believed, they better provide either the weapons, if they remain, or better accounts. They have the budgets. They have the archives. They have the reports of individuals. We do not, and if they want to be believed, they better come up with this," Blix said.

Under Security Council Resolution 1441, passed earlier this month, Iraq has until 8 December to make a full declaration on whether it possesses weapons of mass destruction. It has repeatedly said it no longer possesses such weapons.

Blix confirmed that inspections will resume in Iraq tomorrow, the first in four years. An initial group of 17 inspectors from the new body known as UNMOVIC and the International Atomic Energy Agency arrived in Iraq yesterday. Blix told the council he expected there to be about 100 inspectors in Iraq by the end of December.

The council resolution gives his mission sweeping inspection powers. Blix declined to provide reporters with any specific plans for the initial inspections. "Any indications of where we might be going or what types of places we'll go to are speculations. The [Security] Council authorizes us to go anywhere, anytime, and we intend to do so," Blix said.

Blix told the council he planned to open a field office in Mosul in the north. He said the largest number of potential inspection sites outside the Baghdad area were in the Mosul region. He said he would consider opening an office in Basra in the south at a later date.

Blix said that in recent talks with Iraqi officials, they expressed concern about how to properly present all the information required by the Security Council resolution by 8 December. "They are aware that the consequences could be very serious, and this [is a] matter of interpretation, but more by the Security Council than by [UNMOVIC]. I have the feeling that they are going to try to put up a very substantial report," Blix said.

Resolution 1441 says any false statements or omissions in the weapons declaration will constitute a further material breach by Iraq of its obligations. This could set in motion discussions by the council on considering the use of military force against Iraq.

During the weekend, Iraq sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan objecting to the terms of the council resolution. The letter said the resolution provided the United States with a pretext for launching an attack on Iraq.

China's UN ambassador, Wang Yingfan, who holds the rotating presidency of the council, told reporters that council members were satisfied so far with the preparations to resume inspections. But he reiterated that Iraq was obliged to maintain full cooperation. "We stress that we need cooperation from Iraqi authorities for the implementation of UN resolutions, especially the latest one adopted by the UN Security Council, 1441, and previous resolutions. And we expect full cooperation, full compliance," Wang said.

The council was also discussing late yesterday an extension of Iraq's humanitarian program. The talks have become complicated by a late U.S. request to add some items to the list of banned "dual-use goods" under the program. U.S. officials have sought to include any drugs that Iraq could import to protect its forces from chemical or biological warfare.

Such drugs include Cipro, used after exposure to inhalation anthrax, and atropine, which can protect against the effects of nerve gas. Iraq recently ordered large quantities of atropine from suppliers in Turkey, raising concerns it intended to use nerve gas against any invading force.