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UN: Blix Criticizes Iraq For Not Declaring Drone

United Nations, 11 March 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Chief United Nations weapons inspector Hans Blix has criticized Iraq for not declaring an unmanned drone aircraft that the United States says could be capable of dispersing chemical and biological weapons. Blix told reporters at the UN that Iraq should have declared the existence of the drone, which has a wingspan of 7.45 meters. However, he said his disarmament experts had not yet determined whether the aircraft is illegal under UN resolutions.

At his point, Blix has rejected calling the drone a "smoking gun" that could provide a reason for a U.S.-led attack to disarm Iraq.

Blix said he plans to give the Security Council a report next week defining the remaining disarmament tasks expected of Iraq.

The Security Council is due later today to hold an open session allowing UN member states to express their views on the Iraq crisis.

Britain says it may put forward proposals amending a draft resolution authorizing force to disarm Iraq. Britain's ambassador to the UN, Jeremy Greenstock, said yesterday that London is suggesting a series of tests that Iraq should fulfil within a set time to prove that it is cooperating with UN arms inspectors.

The draft resolution set the date of 17 March as the deadline for Iraq to show full compliance.

France and Russia yesterday formally declared themselves ready to veto such a resolution, with French President Jacques Chirac saying "there is no reason to wage a war."

To be accepted, the draft needs the votes of nine of the 15 members of the Security Council.

Undecided members have criticized the deadline, saying it is too short and does not provide specifics.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has warned the United States and its allies against taking military action against Iraq without the backing of the Security Council. "The members of the Security Council now face a grim choice. If they fail to agree on a common position and action is taken without the authority of the Security Council, the legitimacy and support for any such action will be seriously impaired," Annan said.