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Iraq: Blix, Solana Tell Baghdad To Cooperate Fully To Avoid War

Hans Blix, the chief United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq, urged Baghdad to be more "proactive" in convincing the world it has no weapons of mass destruction if it wants to avoid war. After talks with European Union officials in Brussels today, Blix indicated he believes the UN Security Council will give inspectors more time to continue their work when the council meets on 27 January. Mohammad el-Baradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said in Moscow today that UN weapons inspectors will need a few months before they can wrap up their work in Iraq.

Brussels, 16 January 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Ten days before a crucial meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Iraq, chief United Nations weapons inspector Hans Blix said he believes there is still time to avoid, or at least postpone, war.

After meeting with the European Union's security and foreign-policy chief, Javier Solana, and EU ambassadors in Brussels this morning, Blix said he does not think the scheduled 27 January Security Council meeting will be the "end of history" for Iraq. He said it is possible that UN weapons inspectors will be given extra time to carry on their work beyond that date. "We are going to present a report [to the UN Security Council on 27 January], but it should not be considered a formal report -- it's an update. I am almost certain that the Security Council will ask us for another update in February," Blix said.

For that to happen, though, Blix said Iraq will need to do a lot more to convince the UN Security Council it's cooperating fully with the inspections. Blix said this is the message he will be taking to Baghdad on 18 January following his tour of Brussels, Paris, and London. "The message that we want to bring to Baghdad is that the situation is very tense and very dangerous and that everybody wants to see a verified and credible disarmament of Iraq, of doing away with any weapons of mass destruction that may remain there," Blix said.

Just how dangerous the situation is was made clear by the EU's Solana, who said after meeting with Blix that, although he, like most EU officials, would prefer further deliberations in the United Nations, it is becoming increasingly accepted that the United States may launch an attack against Iraq without a second UN Security Council resolution. "My position, as you know, I have made it public, is that it would be better to have a second resolution [from the UN Security Council regarding action against Iraq], although [Resolution 1441] does not require exactly that. But my position, I think, from our point of view, it would be much better to have a second resolution," Solana said.

France and Germany have said they want a second resolution, while Britain, supporting the United States, does not think it essential.

Solana said today the EU would fully support Blix in his efforts to exact credible, "proactive" cooperation from Iraq.

Blix said today Iraq needs to "convince" the Security Council that it has no chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons of mass destruction. He said the 12,000-page declaration submitted by Iraq on its weapons programs was not adequate and did not provide any new evidence.

Blix said if Iraq lacks documentary evidence to back up its claims, it should present UN weapons inspectors with experts who have been engaged in its various armaments programs. To do this, Blix said, Iraq needs to refrain from intimidating potential witnesses as it used to do during previous inspections, which ended four years ago. "If Iraq is absolutely sure that there's nothing they have to hide, they should be anxious that the interviewees could speak without intimidation. One way would be to let them talk without any minder present; another [way would be] to accept that they go abroad if they want to do so," Blix said.

Blix said UN weapons inspectors had fully "warmed up to their tasks," adding they would not need months of additional time to complete their mission in Iraq.

This appears to contradict a statement made today in Moscow by the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohammad el-Baradei, who said he would ask the Security Council to extend inspections by a number of months.

Blix said in Brussels that UN inspectors have so far found no evidence of the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. He said, however, that Iraq has violated the UN arms embargo by importing "conventional" materiel as little as a year or two ago. Blix said it was possible some of the materiel could be used to build weapons of mass destruction.