January 3, 2003: UN inspectors check more sites as Baghdad repeats it has no banned weapons (Agence France Presse)
January 2, 2003: UN arms experts visited six sites Thursday: spokesman (Agence France Presse)
January 2, 2003: Inspector states no banned weapons found in Iraq so far (The Irish Times)
January 1, 2003: Weapons teams discover nothing (Guardian)
January 1, 2003: UN arms inspectors start New Year with visits to four Iraqi factories including a soft drink bottler
(Associated Press Worldstream)
December 31, 2003: UN inspectors visit eight sites Tuesday: spokesman (Agence France Presse)
December 30, 2002: Repeated inspections but no hard evidence; To Iraqis, site visits are a pointless
charade (The San Francisco Chronicle)
December 30, 2002: Massive US buildup continues, inspectors find no arms (Sunday Morning Herald and Agence
December 29, 2002: Iraq Gives the UN a List Of 500 Weapons Experts (The New York Times)
December 28, 2002: Inspectors query an Iraqi scientist UN personnel return to metals plant to search for weapons
December 26, 2002: Weapons experts examine 7 sites (Reuters News Agency)
December 24, 2002: Iraqi Scientists Quizzed in Private; U.N. Inspectors Try to Discover Extent of Nuclear
Weapons Work (The Washington Post)
December 23, 2002: UN inspectors visit Iraqi milk factory (United Press International)
December 23, 2002: CIA invited to examine suspect sites; Adviser to Saddam says U.S. claims 'discredited'
(Atlanta Journal and Constitution)
December 20, 2002: UN experts inspect former Iraqi nuclear site (Agence France Presse)
December 20, 2002: US not sharing intelligence, say UK agencies (The Independent)
December 19, 2002: UN Briefing Report on Iraq Inspections (UNMOVIC )
December 18, 2002: UN probes Iraqi army missile unit as inspections enter fourth week (Agence France Presse)
December 17, 2002: Small Clues to the Big Picture in Baghdad; U.N. Inspections Run Gamut, From Top Secret to
Seemingly Mundane (The Washington Post)
December 17, 2002: UN inspectors put Iraq's germ warfare capabilities under microscope
(Agence France Presse)
December 17, 2002: UN inspectors search Baghdad University (United Press International)
December 16, 2002: UN inspects 11 Iraqi sites, asks about nuclear scientists (Agence France Presse)
December 15, 2002: Ambiguity shrouds 'material breach'; UN council didn't define term for Iraq (The Denver Post)
December 15, 2002: UN inspectors step up search for weapons in Iraq: A dozen sites visited. No sign of
tampering on doors, windows of centre where they were kept out Friday (Montreal Gazette)
December 15, 2002: UN probes Iraq defence factories, reinforces inspection mission (Agence France Presse)
December 14, 2002: UN inspectors welcomed 15 newly arrived team members, visited 12 sites in Iraq
(Associated Press Worldstream)
December 14, 2002: UN teams return to infectious diseases center; main Iraqi nuclear facility
(Associated Press Worldstream)
December 14, 2002: The Hidden Data in Iraq's Denials (The New York Times)
December 12, 2002: 70 UN Arms Monitors Extend Scope of Searches Into the Iraqi Desert
(The New York Times)
December 12, 2002: Weapons evidence is lacking so far (USA Today)
December 12, 2002: Inspectors fan out across Iraq (Chicago Sun-Times)
December 12, 2002: UN weapons inspectors check out testing site, factory for missiles (Agence France Presse)
December 12, 2002: UN team verifies no revival of weapons activity at nuclear site (The Associated Press)
December 11, 2002: New inspectors boost weapons searches (St. Petersburg Times)
December 11, 2002: UN inspectors search eight military, civilian sites (Agence France Presse)
December 11, 2002: UN weapons inspectors probe suspected chemical lab (Agence France Presse)
December 11, 2002: UN teams probe deeper into nuclear complex, confirm no nuclear revival at another site
(Associated Press Worldstream)
December 10, 2002: UN arms experts intensify Iraq inspections ranging far and wide (Agence France Presse)
December 10, 2002: Bush told to reveal all on Iraq (Sydney Morning Herald)
December 9, 2002: UN reinforcements head for new inspection sites in Iraq (Agence France Presse)
December 9, 2002: A top Iraqi aide defies u.s. to find proof of weapons (The New York Times)
December 9, 2002: UN weapons inspections: an overview (Guardian)
December 5, 2002: Inspecting Iraq: No trouble yet (The Christian Science Monitor)
December 5, 2002: UN team finds only ruins at nerve gas site (The Daily Telegraph London)
December 4, 2002: UN Chief Challenges Bush's Iraq Assessment; Search Teams Gain Access, Annan Says (The
December 4, 2002: Doors open for UN inspectors as they pay a visit to Saddam's inner sanctum (The Daily
December 4, 2002: UN inspectors probe Iraq nuclear research HQ amid first sniping from Baghdad (Agence France
December 4, 2002: UN team inspects former chemical arms factory in the desert (The Associated Press)
January 3, 2003
UN inspectors check more sites as Baghdad repeats it has no banned weapons
by Pierre Lhuillery, Agence France Presse
UN arms experts checked more suspected sites Friday as Baghdad insisted that it has no weapons of mass destruction ahead of chief UN inspector Hans Blix's pivotal visit to Iraq later this month.
On their 35th day of work, inspectors visited Al-Rashid firm, 15 kilometers (10 miles) south of Baghdad, which is involved in missile production, and the Al-Bassel company east of the capital, the information ministry's press center said. A mixed team headed west to the town of Ramadi and a team of biologists travelled to the main southern city of Basra, it said. Experts from the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have been working even on Friday -- the Muslim day of rest -- since resuming arms inspections in Iraq on November 27 after a four-year break.
The inspectors have visited 230 sites since the resumption of inspections, 37 of which had not been previously checked by UN experts, the head of Iraq's National Monitoring Directorate, General Hossam Mohammad Amin, said Thursday. Reiterating that Iraq has no prohibited weapons, Amin said Blix, who heads UNMOVIC, would arrive in Baghdad in the third week of January, but there was no exact date for the visit.
Iraq has invited Blix for talks to improve coordination between the two sides, ahead of a crucial report he is due to present to the UN Security Council on January 27 on Baghdad's cooperation with the inspectors. That report is viewed as a potential catalyst for whether the United States launches a military offensive on Iraq. Washington has threatened to invade unless Iraq confiscates its alleged secret weapons programme and has engaged in a massive troop buildup in the Gulf in preparation for possible military action.
Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan, in remarks published Friday, said the past five weeks of UN inspections had served to disprove US and British charges that Iraq is pursuing weapons of mass destruction. The experts found none of the weapons which US President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair charged were in Iraq's possession, he was quoted by the official daily Al-Iraq as saying. "The inspectors visited all the sites and facilities which Bush, Blair and their media claimed were still working on so-called weapons of mass destruction programs," Ramadan said. But they "found nothing to substantiate the lies contained in the reports of these evil people, which proves that Iraq is free of mass destruction weapons," he said.
As a result, "Bush's ally, (Israeli Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon, came up (with the theory that Iraq's banned) weapons had been transferred to Lebanon, Syria and Libya," the Iraqi vice president said. This was a "scenario" deliberately devised "so that no one would be able to say that Iraq is free of mass destruction weapons," he added. Ramadan last week called "stupid" Sharon's claim that he had information Iraq had transferred chemical or biological weapons to neighboring Syria. Sharon also charged that Iraqi experts were working in Libya's nuclear industry.
Ath-Thawra, mouthpiece of the ruling Baath Party, also repeated on Friday that Iraq had not engaged in any banned armament activity after UN inspectors fled the country in December 1998 ahead of a US-British bombing blitz. "Iraq accepted Security Council (disarmament) Resolution 1441 ... and has been cooperating fully with the arms inspectors ... in order to expose the US administration's lies about Baghdad's possession of mass destruction weapons," the paper said.
January 2, 2003
UN arms experts visited six sites Thursday: spokesman
Agence France Presse
UN arms experts inspected six sites Thursday, the 34th day of their search for Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction, their spokesman said in a statement.
A team of missile specialists returned to the Al-Fatah State Co. in Baghdad, a site already inspected on December 14, for technical talks with key site personnel of the Iraqi Solid Propellant Missile Programmes, Hiro Ueki said. A mixed team went to the vast Al-Taji military complex north of the capital to inspect the Ibn Firnas State Co., an engineering and procurement entity supporting the air force. The team then visited the Al-Fatah State Co. to verify information on aviation-related matters.
A UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) chemical team travelled 280 kilometres (175 miles) northwest from Baghdad to inspect the Al-Hadar State Co., formerly known as Ash Sharqat Uranium Enrichment Facility, a chemical plant that produces nitric acid and ammonium nitrate. An UNMOVIC biological team inspected the Technical Military Depot for the air force at Al-Taji.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors meanwhile visited the Falluja Lead Recovery Plant and a storage site at Khan Dari, both located approximately 60 kilometres (40 miles) west of Baghdad. Experts from UNMOVIC and the IAEA resumed arms inspections in Iraq on November 27 after a four-year break.
The United States has threatened to disarm Iraq by force unless it does so peacefully, but Baghdad insists it no longer has any prohibited weapons.
January 2, 2003
Inspector states no banned weapons found in Iraq so far
by Michael Jansen, The Irish Times
UN inspectors searching Iraq for banned weapons of mass destruction have found nothing so far.
An inspector, quoted yesterday from a US report by the Guardian, revealed that the "silence" of the teams was not intended to "create the illusion" they had found indications that Iraq possessed nuclear, chemical or biological weaponry.
"I must say that if we were to publish a report now, we would have zilch to put in it," the unnamed inspector stated. During repeated visits to sites which formerly housed real and suspected weapons-making facilities, experts fielded by the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) have found no trace of chemical or biological agents which Iraq is alleged to possess. Installations used to enrich uranium for nuclear bombs had been "practically undisturbed" since being closed and sealed by previous inspectors. An Iraqi source said the inspectors had found nothing because there was nothing to find.
The comprehensive 95-page summary of the former inspectorate's activities, produced in 1997 before the UN terminated the effort, indicated that Iraq's prohibited weapons programmes had been wound up and there were very few loose ends. Dr Amir Saadi, Iraqi liaison with UNMOVIC, said these would have been tied up if the inspectors had remained.
The only recent Anglo-US allegations which seem to have some truth in them concerned the purchase and alteration of aluminium tubing. Iraq is not supposed to buy or adapt such items without receiving the approval of the UN committee vetting its acquisition of dual-use equipment.
It was alleged that the tubes were meant to be used for a centrifuge to refine uranium but, during an interview last week with an Iraqi metallurgist, Mr Khadhim Mijbel, UNMOVIC discovered the tubes had been used to make battlefield rockets, which Iraq is permitted to have.
UNMOVIC has repeatedly complained that the US and UK have not provided the inspectors with intelligence about materials or facilities which could prove that Iraq is in breach of Security Council resolution 1441. UNMOVIC's chief, Dr Hans Blix, has been invited to visit Baghdad this month ahead of his January 27th report to the UN Security Council.
January 1, 2003
Weapons teams discover nothing
by Brian Whitaker, The Guardian (UK)
UN inspection teams in Iraq have found "zilch" so far, but have had little help from intelligence agencies to guide them in their hunt for illicit weapons, one of the inspectors said yesterday.
"If our goal is to catch them with their pants down, we are definitely losing," the inspector told an American newspaper. "We haven't found an iota of concealed material yet." The inspector's comments - given to the Los Angeles Times - give the first direct insight into the Unmovic teams' lack of progress. Unmovic is saying nothing officially until it presents its report to the security council on January 27.
"By being silent we may create the illusion that we did uncover something," the inspector told the paper. "But I must say that if we were to publish a report now, we would have zilch to put in it."
Unmovic's chemical experts have found no trace of the tonnes of chemical agents that Iraq is suspected of possessing, according to the inspector. Biologists have taken air samples to check for spores, but any biological agents were probably buried or disposed of long ago. On the nuclear side, Unmovic found that the installations used to enrich uranium were "practically undisturbed" since being sealed by the previous inspectors.
The only breaches of UN resolutions, the inspector said, might come from Iraq's handling of aluminium tubes which were allegedly part of a centrifuge to enrich uranium. The Iraqis say they were intended for air-to-ground missiles but were later adapted for anti-aircraft use. Altering the tubes and buying replacements without informing the UN would be a breach of resolutions on dual use goods.
January 1, 2003
U.N. arms inspectors start New Year with visits to four Iraqi factories including a soft drink bottler
by G.G. Labelle, Associated Press Worldstream
U.N. arms experts inspected four government and commercial sites in and around Baghdad on Wednesday, taking no time off for New Year's Day - much to the annoyance of a manager of a truck repair shop who complained he had to host the inspectors on an official holiday.
A U.N. statement said the sites inspected included a missile maintenance facility, a brewery and Baghdad's 7UP soft drink bottling plant. It did not explain what interest the inspectors had in beer or bottling plants.
Also Wednesday, Iraq's official media renewed its warning for Washington not to attack Iraq. The army newspaper Al-Qadissiya said Washington was only contemplating an invasion - which was sure to meet defeat - because it does not understand "the Iraqi character, nor the intimate deep relationship between it and the land of Iraq." U.S. and British warplanes attacked an Iraqi mobile radar system Wednesday after it entered the southern no-fly zone, the U.S. military said in a statement.
The radar near al-Qurnah, about 380 kilometers (240 miles) southeast of Baghdad, was a threat to coalition aircraft, the U.S. Central Command said in a statement on its Web site. The official Iraqi News Agency said the planes attacked civilian installations, killing one person and wounding two others. The U.S. statement made no mention of casualties.
The inspectors made a first visit to the al-Magd company, which repairs heavy trucks, in Baghdad and a return visit to the Al-Harith workshop, 45 kilometers (28 miles) north of the capital, which does maintenance work on aging Soviet-designed SA-2, SA-3 and SA-6 anti-aircraft missile systems.
The U.N. statement said the al-Harith facility contained electronics equipment and corrosion-resistant materials. At the al-Magd company, assistant director Khudeir Abbas told reporters the visit to his workshop lasted about an hour and described the inspectors' conduct as "very professional." Abbas, however, made clear he was unhappy about the visit taking place on New Year's Day. "Today is an official holiday and the beginning of the new year, yet we were forced to receive them," he said.
So far, the U.N. inspectors are not known to have had any problems gaining access to Iraqi sites where they are searching for evidence that President Saddam Hussein's regime still has - or is trying to develop - chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.
But this is the third time Iraqi officials have complained about the inspectors' methods. Last Thursday, Gen. Hossam Mohammed Amin, chief liaison to the U.N. arms experts, said the inspectors were not coordinating well with their Iraqi counterparts, sometimes calling at 6 a.m. to arrange visits that day. Later he complained that some inspectors upset managers at one inspection site by not explaining why they were conducting a search.
U.N. Security Council resolution 1441, which sent the inspectors back to Iraq last month four years after the U.N. inspection program broke down, guarantees the arms experts unfettered access to any facility without advance notice. The United States has warned that any obstacles to the inspection could be considered a "material breach" of the resolution, opening the way for a military campaign to disarm Iraq. U.N. resolutions first demanded that Iraq eliminate its weapons of mass destruction in 1990 after its invasion of Kuwait.
On Tuesday, U.S. military officials in Washington revealed that more American infantry troops were being sent to the Gulf to ready for a possible war, and U.S. President George W. Bush said at his Texas ranch that Iraq's response to the inspection program was still "disappointing."
In its New Year's Day editorial, the official daily Al-Jumhuriya said that Iraqis remained united under Saddam's leadership in 2003 and were ready to defeat "any unjust aggression that might be launched by the bullies of the U.S. administration." The army newspaper Al-Qadissiya also said an invading force would meet a "bitter end," pointing out that the United States had been defeated in Vietnam, Lebanon, Somalia and "even in Afghanistan." despite its technological superiority.
It said the United States found itself in losing situations because it did not fully understand the psychology of other nations. "This means that America, which claims it knows the world countries more than they know themselves, is like a blind old woman who does not know where her legs are taking her and in which pit she will fall," the newspaper said. sny-na-ggl/jbm<
December 30, 2002
Repeated inspections but no hard evidence; To Iraqis, site visits are a pointless charade
by Robert Collier, The San Francisco Chronicle
Outside a huge, hulking building in an industrial suburb of Baghdad, long white metal cylinders shaped like ballistic missiles sit in rows, glinting ominously in the sunshine.
To American intelligence experts viewing by satellites miles overhead, the al-Nasr factory complex must look like a hiding place for Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's reputed weapons of mass destruction. But when U.N. inspectors swarmed over the site, they found that the cylinders outside the building, and under construction inside, appeared to be exactly what the Iraqis said they were -- large pressured chambers in storage tanks for the nation's petroleum and petrochemical industries.
Tension flared when inspectors and their Iraqi counterparts hurried from the main factory to a nearby office building and returned with a nervous Iraqi clutching a handful of keys -- a sign they had found a suspicious door that wouldn't open. Would the Iraqis find the right key? If not, would a locked storeroom be considered Iraqi stonewalling and thus another piece of evidence in the case for war? If the key were found, would the inspectors find a secret stash of documents or weapons behind the locked door?
The inspectors soon emerged again, chatting amiably with the Iraqis, then got into their cars and left. The key had been found, the door opened, and nothing found amiss. Nor was anything else wrong in the factory during the three-hour visit Friday.
NO HARD EVIDENCE
Every day, as U.N. weapons inspectors fan out across Iraq, the news is the same -- no hard evidence of the chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, or the long-range missiles, that the Bush administration insists Hussein's regime possesses.
To Iraq, the result is proof the American charges are false and that there is no cause for war. "We are innocent of the U.S. charges, and the United Nations must be a fair court," said Gen. Hossam Mohammed Amin, director of Iraq's National Monitoring Directorate. To the United States, the inspections process has failed to provide hard evidence refuting U.S. and U.N. suspicions that Iraq has unaccounted-for stocks of anthrax, botulinum toxin, mustard gas, sarin gas and VX nerve gas. "The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says repeatedly, citing as proof Iraq's record of lying on its weapons declarations in past years.
Put simply, the problem boils down to this: Is Saddam Hussein's regime innocent until proven guilty, or guilty until proven innocent?
U.N. REVIEW COMING UP
These competing presumptions will play a central role when the U.N. Security Council in late January evaluates the weapons inspections process and determines whether to authorize an invasion of Iraq by the United States and its allies.
Yet as the inspection of al-Nasr demonstrated, the U.N. inspections may be growing redundant to the point of near-irrelevance. Friday's visit was the third time in the past month that inspectors have gone to al-Nasr. In 1998, the factory was attacked by U.S. missiles, and from 1996 to 1998, it was visited repeatedly by U.N. inspectors. Not once was incriminating evidence found.
Overall, the inspectors have made 202 site visits since they resumed work in November after a four-year hiatus. It's unclear how many of this year's inspections were repeat visits.
To the Iraqis it's all a pointless charade. "We have never made missiles," said Ayad Hussein, deputy manager of the al-Nasr complex, as he led reporters through the cavernous building after the U.N. inspectors left. "They have bombed this plant, they have inspected it again and again. Why do they need to keep suspecting us?" Anger rose briefly in his voice. Then he shrugged and said blankly, "Fine, let them come again and again."
To explain the repetitions, U.N. spokesmen in Baghdad admit they have largely exhausted their list of possible weapons sites and must make repeat visits to stay busy. They have asked the United States to provide intelligence to help identify new sites.
Although the Bush administration recently said it would share some secrets with the United Nations, it appears to have turned over little so far. Some administration officials reportedly oppose such disclosures on grounds that inspectors might leak the information to the Iraqis and that intelligence should be saved for U.S. attack planners during wartime.
The other leading chance for new, incriminating information could come from interviews with Iraqi weapons experts. On Saturday, Iraq handed over a list of more than 500 scientists who had worked on the country's chemical, biological and nuclear programs.
The United States is pressuring the United Nations to demand that the scientists leave the country, but chief weapons inspector Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the U.N. nuclear weapons agency, are resisting the suggestion. Although neither U.N. official has made fully clear the reasons for reluctance, some experts in the U.S. have said they fear the U.N. mission's autonomy could be called into question because CIA agents might be permitted to interview the scientists -- and presumably offer them bribes to defect.
In spite of that controversy, the search for Hussein's presumed hidden weapons grinds on. While the number of U.N. inspectors has grown to about 110, and they are covering ever-wider areas of the country, their work is drawing in progressively smaller and smaller crowds of foreign journalists, who gather at U.N. headquarters every morning to follow them as they drive off to unannounced locations.
PACE SLOWED DOWN
When the visits started in November, the inspectors were tailed by hundreds of reporters and television crews in high-speed car chases through Baghdad -- causing several bloody traffic accidents in the process. Now, only a half-dozen cameras make the morning stakeout, and the pace is slower.
Making sense of it all is difficult even for seasoned observers in Baghdad. U.N. inspectors are generally tight-lipped about their work and refer most questions to their superiors in New York. Diplomats view the Iraqi government's statements with extreme skepticism.
Meanwhile, the Bush administration's apparent march toward war makes anything that occurs in Iraq seem of lesser importance. "What's happening here is an almost complete lack of information," said a European diplomat in Baghdad, who asked to remain unidentified because of what he termed "the extreme sensitivity of the Iraqi government," and because his own government tightly controls its policy statements on the issue. "If you want to find out what's going on, go to New York or Washington. That's where the news is. Here, among diplomats in Iraq, we're all in the dark."
December 30, 2002
Massive US buildup continues, inspectors find no arms
Sunday Morning Herald and Agence France Presse
As a massive US military buildup continued in the Gulf, UN weapons inspectors in their second month in Iraq conceded they had found no evidence of the weapons of mass destruction Washington and Britain claim exist.
A spokesman for the inspectors said Baghdad, in keeping with a UN mandate, had turned over the names of some 500 scientists who had worked on military projects.
There was meanwhile speculation that North Korea's escalation of its nuclear program was timed to coincide with the Iraqi crisis, to force a preoccupied United States back to the negotiating table. US President George W Bush is to send an envoy to Seoul for talks with South Korean president-elect Roh Moo-Hyun, a senior Roh aide said. The US and its allies suspended shipments to punish the energy-starved state for its perceived renewed drive to build nuclear arms. However, experts say Pyongyang is more interested in pushing ahead with nuclear brinkmanship to force the United States to negotiate at a time when it is preoccupied with Iraq.
North Korea wants aid and recognition to guarantee the survival of its bankrupt communist regime, according to experts in Seoul. Paik Hak-Soon of the private Sejong Institute said Pyongyang was "cutting the salami very thinly" to ramp up pressure on Washington to force it to begin dialogue. "If the United States continues with its current game of chicken, the North would have no other choice but to go along the road to developing nuclear bombs," he said.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), also involved in Iraqi weapons inspections, was locked in a dispute with North Korea over Pyongyang's expulsion of IAEA monitors and reactivation of a nuclear program it had agreed to shelve.
A British tabloid meanwhile claimed in its Sunday edition it had information a US-led war on Iraq would start on February 21 "at midnight". The Sunday Express said the date and time - not specifying which time zone - was given by Bush to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in a telephone call over Christmas. "The timing is confirmed by British defence chiefs, who have been told to expect war in the second or third week in February," the paper said, without giving the source of its information.
There was grumbling from Gulf states about the economic effect of a regional war. Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Moasher warned that the Middle East faced a bleak 2003 if the US led a war on Iraq amid continuing violence in the Palestinian territories. "Next year the region will witness very difficult political conditions if the escalation in the Palestinian territories continues amid the possibility of a military strike on Iraq," the official Petra news agency quoted Moasher as telling a Jordanian press syndicate meeting. Jordan is entirely dependant on Iraq for its petroleum products.
And Egypt complained that revenues from shipping through the Suez Canal, which reached $US1.9 billion ($A3.4 billion) in 2002, would fall by 10 per cent in the event of a US-led war against Iraq. In 2002, 13,500 ships carrying 442 million tonnes of goods moved through the canal. Revenues reached almost $US2 billion ($A3.57 billion) in 2000, the highest recorded since the canal was inaugurated in 1879. The Suez Canal, which links the Mediterranean to the Red Sea, is Egypt's second main source of income after tourism.
As preparations built up for possible war on Iraq, US television reported that the USS George Washington and another carrier group had been ordered to prepare to leave for the Gulf within four days. The Washington Post said Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had signed an order deploying significant ground forces, combat aircraft and logistics support to the Gulf - the last phase of the war preparations. The order identifies an array of forces and capabilities, including mechanised infantry units, midair refuellers and medical facilities to be sent to Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and other Gulf nations.
World powers meanwhile began hectic diplomacy over North Korea's perceived nuclear intentions as Washington refused to respond to Pyongyang's "threats and broken commitments". The IAEA said its inspectors had been asked by North Korea to leave the country by Tuesday. The team had been monitoring a reprocessing plant that can produce weapons-grade plutonium. Pyongyang said on December 12 it was reactivating the plant. The expulsion of IAEA inspectors, leaving the outside world with no means to monitor the North's nuclear program, prompted a flurry of diplomacy. South Korea was sending senior officials to the North's closest allies China and Russia, whose foreign ministers have already discussed the situation by telephone.
December 29, 2002
Iraq Gives the U.N. a List Of 500 Weapons Experts
by Neil Macfarquha, The New York Times
Iraq handed over to the United Nations office here today a list of more than 500 experts involved in the development of ballistic missiles and nuclear, chemical or biological weapons, setting the stage for one of the knottiest tasks facing the renewed inspections.
The list fulfills one requirement of the United Nations Security Council's Resolution 1441, which was passed in November and re-established weapons inspections. But the extent to which these scientists will prove helpful in ferreting out any new information about Iraq's possible weapons of mass destruction remains an open question. The second Iraqi scientist interviewed by the nuclear inspectors -- even before the United Nations was given the formal list -- suggested at a news conference today that all Iraqi scientists should demand that a witness from the government be present at interviews with inspectors and that no one should leave the country to be interviewed.
"How can an Iraqi man leave Iraq?" the scientist, Kadhim Mijbel, a British-educated metallurgist involved in developing light battlefield rockets, asked derisively. He noted that he had not been asked to leave but would have refused. His appearance seemingly was intended to suggest how Iraq expects all its scientists to behave.
The subject of interviewing scientists is one of the most contentious provisions of the Security Council resolution. During the previous inspections of Iraqi arms sites, from 1991 to 1998, Iraq repeatedly declared that it had released a full, final and complete list of its weapons, only to have various defectors come along and disclose extensive hidden information.
Thus the Bush administration put particular emphasis on giving the United Nations the right to remove scientists from the country, suggesting that they would be more forthcoming out of reach of Iraq's secret police. But Hans Blix, the chief weapons inspector for nonnuclear arms, has said he does not want his inspection team to be transformed into a defections agency.
The typed list, in Arabic, was delivered this afternoon to the headquarters of the weapons inspectors here and transmitted to New York as well as to the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, which is responsible for inspecting possible nuclear arms sites.
Hiro Ueki, a spokesman here for the inspectors, said it was impossible to characterize the list until it had been translated and studied. He said the question of taking Iraqi scientists out of the country, as well as issues of whether their families would go with them, was still under study.
Iraq has said it will not block its scientists from leaving. But it is unclear just how popular the offer might prove. Mr. Mijbel's position illuminates the potential pitfalls ahead. "Only two interviews have taken place, so it's premature to conclude whether they are successful or not," Mr. Ueki said. All interviews will be voluntary, he said. In their first interview, the inspectors talked to a scientist who had been involved in the nuclear program in his university laboratory. Mr. Mijbel, though, was given 24-hours' notice through the liaison office, the National Monitoring Directorate. "It was to facilitate the interview," Mr. Ueki said.
Mr. Mijbel, whose name was given differently in the official announcement on Friday, said that when an official at the directorate called about the interview, he demanded that a witness be present and refused to go the United Nations headquarters at the Canal Hotel here.
"I look at this place as Guantanamo Camp," Mr. Mijbel said, referring to the base in Cuba where the United States has been holding suspected militants linked to Al Qaeda. "I am not a prisoner. I am a free Iraqi man. So I refused to meet at that place."
Instead, he met the two inspectors -- Robert Kelley, the chief United Nations nuclear inspector, and Ahmed L. Gebaly -- for about an hour and five minutes on Friday in a conference room at Al Rasheed Hotel. Mr. Mijbel suggested the government-owned hotel, a slightly tattered place considered Baghdad's finest, as neutral ground. After the interview, the United Nations released a statement suggesting that the interview had been highly informative. "He provided technical details of a military program," the statement said. "This program has attracted considerable attention as a possible prelude to a clandestine nuclear program. The answers will be of great use in completing the I.A.E.A. assessment."
Mr. Mijbel voiced outrage at that assessment today, saying he made it clear that he knew nothing about developing nuclear weapons or other intelligence matters. Mr. Ueki announced that he had not meant to suggest that the scientist had been involved in the past nuclear program nor that Iraq now had a hidden program. The 50-year-old metallurgist said his main connection with the military was his work as a consultant trying to stem the problem of seriously corroding aluminum pipes. http://www.nytimes.com
December 26, 2002
Weapons experts examine 7 sites
by Nadim Ladki, Reuters News Agency
War drums beating louder, Saddam warns Syria says it's not hiding Iraqi arms
U.N. weapons experts visited seven suspect sites in Iraq yesterday, taking no break for Christmas, as President Saddam Hussein warned Iraqis the drums of war were beating louder.
"They are in Baghdad to work and they will work their butts off as long as they are there," Mark Gwozdecky, a spokesperson for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said on Christmas Eve. Teams from the IAEA and the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) visited seven sites in central and southern Iraq on Christmas Day, a U.N. spokesperson in Baghdad said. The IAEA inspected the large Hatteen Fateh Explosives Factory, which produces explosives for bombs, shells and rockets and the Umm al-Maarik Factory, which produces military parts.
An IAEA team joined Iraqi auditors at the Qa Qaa explosives plant where they made item counts of important dual-use materials and compared results, the spokesperson said.
An UNMOVIC team inspected a liquid propane gas filling company in Taji area just north of Baghdad. Around two dozen experts who spent the night in the southern port city of Basra also inspected a paper plant.
The inspectors returned to Iraq last month after a four-year hiatus to resume a hunt for banned weapons of mass destruction, amid threats of war by the United States if Iraq fails to disarm under the terms of a United Nations resolution.
Yesterday, Syria brushed aside Israeli accusations that it was hiding Iraq's biological and chemical weapons. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said on Tuesday that Israel suspected Baghdad was transferring arms to Syria to hide them from the inspectors.
Pope John Paul II, in his Christmas message from the Vatican, appealed to the world to avert conflict in Iraq. And in London, the leader of the world's Anglicans, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, used his first Christmas address to criticize the British and U.S. governments over possible war with Iraq.
Meanwhile, Israeli military intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. Aharon Ze'evi-Farkash told a parliamentary committee that a U.S. strike would logically follow the Jan. 27 deadline for the final weapons inspectors' report to the U.N. Security Council. "The assessment is that if there is an attack, it will be at the beginning of February."
December 24, 2002
Iraqi Scientists Quizzed in Private; U.N. Inspectors Try to Discover Extent of Nuclear Weapons Work
by Colum Lynch, The Washington Post
The United Nations' nuclear arms watchdog has begun conducting closed-door interviews with Iraq's atomic energy experts, marking a critical new stage in the U.N. effort to verify Baghdad's claims that it has destroyed its most lethal weapons of mass destruction, according to a spokesman for the agency.
Drawing from a list of hundreds of Iraqi officials linked to Iraq's former nuclear weapons program, officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are seeking to determine whether Baghdad secretly began rebuilding that program after U.N. inspectors left the country in December 1998 on the eve of a U.S.-British bombing campaign.
While IAEA inspectors have routinely questioned Iraqi scientists at former nuclear weapons sites since they resumed inspections last month, this is the first time that they have asserted their right to conduct face-to-face interviews with individuals without the presence of an Iraqi government minder. It sets the U.N.'s nuclear sleuths ahead of their counterparts at the U.N. Monitoring Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), who have yet to conduct confidential interviews with Iraq's biological, chemical weapons and ballistic missile experts. "We are moving from an information-gathering phase to a more probing, investigative phase," the IAEA's chief spokesman, Mark Gwozdecki, said in a telephone interview from the agency's Vienna headquarters. "We can't talk about who, how or how many," he said of the scientists being questioned.
White House and State Department officials, meanwhile, dismissed an offer by Iraq this weekend to let CIA officials visit Iraq to participate in inspections and therefore, presumably, interviews. "It's nonsense," said one U.S. official. "The focus should be on Iraq coming clean."
But Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld would not rule out the possibility. "I don't know what the United States might consider doing," he said. "I suppose they invited intelligence people. And as I recall, I suppose the [intelligence] community is thinking about that at the present time."
The Bush administration has stepped up pressure on Mohammed ElBaradei, the Egyptian director general of the IAEA, and Hans Blix, the Swedish executive chairman of UNMOVIC, to speed the pace of inspections and to exercise their authority to question some Iraqi specialists outside the country, where they can speak freely without the fear of reprisals.
ElBaradei said in a recent interview that he would interview Iraqi scientists abroad if he received assurances from Washington that they could obtain political asylum or return safely to Iraq. "We are now in the process of interviewing people inside Iraq in private," ElBaradei added today in an interview with CNN. "But we are also working on the practical arrangements to take people out of Iraq."
Although Iraq's nuclear weapons program was largely destroyed by U.N. inspectors after the 1991 Persian Gulf War, the CIA and Britain's Joint Intelligence Committee believe that Baghdad has resumed its efforts, engaging in an intensive covert operation since 1998 to procure uranium and components that could be used in a nuclear weapons program. They have also raised concerns that Iraq has brought its nuclear weapons team back together.
"In the absence of inspections, however, most analysts assess that Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear program -- unraveling the IAEA's hard-earned accomplishments," according to a recent CIA report.
While the IAEA declined to name Iraqi specialists who have been questioned, officials said several individuals would be obvious subjects. Jaafar Dhia Jaafar, credited by U.N. specialists with heading up Iraq's covert nuclear weapons program, and Mahdi Obeidi, a uranium enrichment specialist, are central figures in Iraq's secret nuclear weapons program.
Jaafar was part of a senior Iraqi delegation that met numerous times with ElBaradei and Blix in New York and Vienna this year. Following one of those visits, Iraq's U.N. ambassador, Mohammed Douri, complained that the United States approached three members of the Iraqi delegation with an offer of political asylum. The offer was rejected, he said. But it remains unclear whether Jaafar was among those who had been contacted by the United States.
Pakistan, meanwhile, denied reports that the father of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program, Abdul Qadeer Khan, offered to help Iraq build a nuclear weapon in 1990. The Associated Press and the Times of London, citing U.N. documents, reported that an unidentified middleman, claiming to represent Khan, made the offer on the eve of the Gulf War. The IAEA maintained that Iraq never accepted the offer, according to the reports.
"We find it preposterous," said Mansoor Suhail, a spokesman for the Pakistani mission to the United Nations. "No responsible Pakistani scientist would enter into a a nuclear deal with any country."
December 31, 2003
UN inspectors visit eight sites Tuesday: spokesman
Agence France Presse
UN weapons inspectors visited eight sites in the Iraqi capital and outlying areas Tuesday, the 32nd day of their hunt for Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction, their spokesman Hiro Ueki said.
Missile experts from the Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) went to Al-Mansur company, 10 kilometres (six miles) north of Baghdad, and the Al-Mamun factory near Al-Yussifiya, some 60 kilometres (40 miles) southwest of the capital. An UNMOVIC team of biologists inspected the National Centre of Drug Control and Research in Baghdad. Another team searched the Ibn Sina research centre, also in the capital.
An UNMOVIC chemical team inspected two research centres in Baghdad -- the Chemical Engineering Research Design Centre, which is part of the Saad Co. and was inspected on December 29, and the Petrochemical Research and Development Centre, run by the oil ministry. Both inspections were focused on verifying the current status of their activities, as well as their activities since 1998, Ueki said.
Another UNMOVIC team inspected the Chemical Corp.'s Training Centre, located approximately 120 kilometres (80 miles) west of Baghdad. The IAEA inspected the Mechanical Engineering Design Centre, which was separate from the chemical team's inspection.
Experts from the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) resumed arms inspections in Iraq on November 27 after a four-year break.
December 28, 2002
Inspectors query an iraqi scientist un personnel return to metals plant to search for weapons
by Nadia Abou el-Magd, Associated Press
United Nations arms specialists said yesterday that they had interviewed a scientist possibly linked to a clandestine Iraqi nuclear program. Iraqi officials said UN weapons inspectors scoured sites for signs of suspected weapons of mass destruction.
Officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency, a UN affiliate, quizzed Kazem Mojbal, a metallurgist from the state-run Al-Raya company. Inspections team spokesman Hiro Ueki said Mojbal gave UN officials details about an unidentified Iraqi military program that "has attracted considerable attention as a possible prelude to a clandestine nuclear program." "The answers will be of great use in completing the IAEA assessment," said a statement Ueki released.
A senior official in Iraq's National Monitoring Directorate, the Iraqi body that deals with inspectors, said that UN officials interviewed Mojbal for an hour at Baghdad's state-owned Al-Rashid hotel. An Iraqi official was present during the interview. "For sure, I have no relationship with the nuclear program," Mojbal said on state-run television later yesterday. "I became upset during the meeting because they emphasized [providing] names of people," he said. "I'm specialized in minerals and have no relation with the previous [nuclear] program."
On Tuesday. in their first session with an Iraqi scientist, UN inspectors quizzed a former member of Baghdad's nuclear program. While weapons inspectors have spoken to engineers and specialists at sites they have searched, it was the first request to interview a scientist privately.
Under the toughened UN inspections regime that resumed Nov. 27, inspectors can speak privately with scientists and workers associated with Iraqi weapons and even take them abroad for interviews. US officials have said they hope the privacy will prompt scientists to reveal hidden weapons programs. UN inspections resumed one month ago yesterday after the last group of weapons inspectors left Iraq in 1998, before US and British warplanes bombed Baghdad for failing to cooperate with the inspections.
Inspectors visited the al-Nasr al- Atheem State Company in Baghdad, a plant for chemical-processing equipment that used to be known as the State Heavy Engineering Company, the Iraqi Information Ministry said. The visit was a follow-up to one on Dec. 16. The inspectors, who resumed work in Iraq on Nov. 27 after a four-year break, had checked out the site during their inspections in the 1990s. "The company undertakes a wide range of metal working for both civilian and military purposes," Ueki said in his statement.
Ayad Mohammed Hussein, assistant director of the company, told reporters that al-Nasr served the oil and electricity industries. "We do not have hidden weapons of mass destruction," he said.
In their second visit yesterday, the inspectors went to al-Assriya Company, an old Baghdad factory that produces arrack, an anise-flavored liquor that is virtually the national alcoholic beverage of Iraq, the Information Ministry said.
The inspections are being carried out under UN Security Council Resolution 1441, which authorizes the inspectors to visit any facility or property at any time. The resolution warns Baghdad of serious consequences if it fails to comply with the inspections.
In a prayer sermon broadcast live on Iraqi state television yesterday, a preacher in a Baghdad mosque railed against US pressure on the country. "God rescue us from the Americans," Abdel-Razaq Al-Saadi said in the Abdel-Qader Al-Kailani Mosque. "It has become the duty of every Muslim to stand in the face of this American Satan, and to say no."
December 23, 2002
U.N. inspectors visit Iraqi milk factory
by Ghassan Al-kadi, United Press International
International weapons inspectors in Iraq backed off on their schedule Monday, visiting a milk factory and two other sites suspected of secretly producing weapons of mass destruction.
The inspectors from the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission and the International Atomic Energy Agency traveled to Abi Gharib, about 20 miles west of Baghdad, to search the milk factory. The site, which is run by the ministry of industry and minerals, was hit by U.S. and British airstrikes during the 1991 Gulf War following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. "The inspectors fanned out in the factory and its production units and asked for information about certain technical matters, which we answered fully," the technical director of the General Company for Dairy Products, Youssef Nouri, said after the inspection.
Meanwhile, a team of chemical experts inspected the Bitar Center for Research on Veterinary Medicine in the area of al Taji, 20 miles north of Baghdad. The chief technician at the center said: "We offered all the facilities and information which they asked for. The visit was completed without any incidents." He added the inspectors found nothing suspicious. The veterinary research center was not hit during the Gulf War and was under permanent U.N. monitoring, Iraqi officials said.
The third site inspected Monday was the al Faw General Engineering Company, run by the national department of military industries.
Speaking during a visit to the Jordanian capital Monday, Iraq's minister of industry and minerals said the inspection missions had obstructed the country's industrial capacity. "The mission of international inspectors is paralyzing the work of industrial installations and hindering their normal activities, and consequently influencing industrial capacities," said Maysar Shallah.
The Iraqi minister reiterated his country's willingness to cooperate fully with the international arms inspectors, however. Shallah conveyed his comments on the sidelines of a conference of Arab ministers of industry in Amman.
December 23, 2002
CIA invited to examine suspect sites; Adviser to Saddam says U.S. claims 'discredited'
By Moni Basu, Atlanta Journal and Constitution
Iraq denied Sunday that it had failed to tell the United Nations about hidden weapons and invited CIA agents to lead U.N. inspectors to suspected arms sites.
Amir al-Saadi, an adviser to President Saddam Hussein, said at a packed news conference that questions about Iraq's arms program had been dealt with in its declaration to the United Nations and in discussions with U.N. inspectors now working in the country.
Charges by the United States and Britain that the Dec. 7 declaration contained omissions and fabrications "were based on old rehashed reports" from the previous round of "discredited" U.N. arms inspections, al-Saadi said. "We are ready to deal with each of those questions if you ask us," he said. "We do not even have any objections if the CIA sent somebody with the inspectors to show them the suspected sites."
Al-Saadi also said Iraq would comply by year's end with chief U.N. inspector Hans Blix's request for a list of Iraqi scientists who might have knowledge of hidden weapons programs. Washington and London, he said, should await the conclusions of the U.N. inspectors before jumping to their own. "After 24 days of inspections covering practically all the sites named in those reports and after the submission of our declaration, the lies and baseless allegations have been uncovered," he said. Al-Saadi's comments were echoed Sunday in Iraqi newspaper stories.
"Everybody knows that if they had concrete information, they would have put it on television all around the world before giving it to the inspection teams," said Babil, the newspaper operated by Saddam's son Odai.
And Saddam himself, meeting with a visiting envoy from Belarus, said, "We have told the world we are not producing these kind of weapons, but it seems that the world is drugged, absent or in a weak position," Iraq's official news agency reported. In particular, al-Saadi defended Iraq's disclosure of efforts to obtain uranium from Niger and South Africa, an issue raised by the State Department when it called Iraq's declaration a "material breach" of U.N. declarations --- language that laid the foundation for military action. Al-Saadi said he had already discussed the matter with leaders of the U.N. inspection team. He said Iraq had obtained uranium oxide, not uranium, from Niger in the mid-1980s and that no such procurement had been made from South Africa.
"Are we hiding our procurement? We have answered on the record what we did," al-Saadi said.
Al-Saadi also said allegations that Iraq was trying to manufacture the nerve gas VX were based on information manipulated by U.N. inspectors in the early 1990s. He said sealed test samples were opened before testing for traces of the deadly agent, and that European lab tests conducted later found no evidence of VX.
December 20, 2002
UN experts inspect former Iraqi nuclear site
Agence France Presse
International weapons inspectors probed Friday the al-Tuwaitha site, the former heart of Iraq's nuclear program, a UN statement said.
It was the seventh inspection of the large complex, 25 kilometers (15 miles) southeast of Baghdad, since UN arms experts resumed inspections in Iraq on November 27 after a four-year break.
"Even though it was a Muslim day of rest and there was only a guard at the center, the site was made available to full inspection," said Hiro Ueki, spokesman for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC). An UNMOVIC chemical team inspected the al-Tuwaitha Industrial Chemical Research Center and two IAEA teams requested access to a facility during non-standard hours at the former al-Tuwaitha nuclear complex, he said. "The complex now conducts civilian research in the non-nuclear field. The IAEA team observed work-shift levels during this non-work day period," Ueki said.
The previous inspections of the site were carried out on December 4, 9, 10, 11, 14 and 15. All were undertaken by the IAEA except the one on December 14, which was by an UNMOVIC biological team. During their previous visits, the IAEA teams carried out an inventory of nuclear material from Iraq's past nuclear program.
Al-Tuwaitha was the location of the French-supplied Osirak nuclear reactor bombed by Israeli warplanes in 1981.
Ueki also announced that two UNMOVIC inspectors arrived in Baghdad Thursday, bringing the total number of inspectors to 115, 96 from UNMOVIC and 19 from the IAEA.
Iraq insists it has no weapons of mass destruction or long-range missiles, and that it has given up and dismantled its nuclear, biological and chemical warfare programs. But the United States charged Iraq on Thursday with trying to procure uranium used in the manufacture of nuclear weapons from Niger. The accusation was contained in a fact sheet detailing what the United States says are omissions in Baghdad's declaration to the United Nations on its weapons programs.
It was the second time that inspections were carried out on the Muslim day of rest. One week ago, the inspection of a Baghdad medical lab hit a snag because the key holder was away and could not be located. The UN team tagged seals on several rooms and returned to the site the next day.
December 20, 2002
US not sharing intelligence, say UK agencies
By Kim Sengupta, The Independent
The United States has failed to provide Britain with full details of its "solid evidence" proving that Iraq is hiding weapons of mass destruction, security sources say. There is also concern in London that the Americans are again trying to link Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden's al-Qa'ida network, a link British and European intelligence agencies do not believe exists.
The latest manifestations include claims that Iraq supplied an al-Qa'ida-affiliated group, Asbat al-Ansar, with the nerve agent VX for terrorist attacks. Another tale likely to surface soon, the security sources say, will be that of a Shia prisoner held by Kurds in northern Iraq who claims to have been an assassin for both al-Qa'ida and Baghdad.
Proof of Iraqi subterfuge over weapons of mass destructions (WMDs) is likely to be seen as a "material breach" of the United Nations resolution, and could provide the trigger for an attack by US and British forces. But although classified information is routinely exchanged by Washington and London, British officials say they do not have the " smoking gun" the Americans claim to possess about Baghdad's alleged chemical, biological and nuclear arsenals.
British officials agree President Saddam has secreted material and documents about his weaponry. But their conclusion is based on analysis of a vast amount of raw intelligence which needs to be verified. The sources believe the Bush administration is "talking up" the strength of the information on Iraq's WMDs.
"We know [of] material which is unaccounted for," a senior source said. "But we have not got a definite site, a grid reference, where we can say Saddam is hiding it. If the US administration does indeed have that kind of specifics, it has not been passed on to us. The main problem is known to us all. After all, it was Paul Wolfowitz [the hawkish deputy US Defence Secretary] who said, 'Iraq isn't a country where we've had human intelligence for years'."
The security agencies are putting huge emphasis on getting access to Iraqi scientists and technical officials who helped develop Iraq's old chemical, biological and nuclear programmes. But despite the United Nations chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, writing to the Iraqis to demand such a list, it has yet to be produced.
Pressure on US intelligence agencies from hawks in Washington to establish that the Baghdad regime is working with al-Qa'ida and its Islamist sympathisers have failed, with the "evidence" presented being met with scepticism in the US as well as abroad.
Donald Rumsfeld, the US Defence Secretary, is also being blamed for a lack of clarity over plans for attack. The divisions he has with military commanders on strategy mean the Ministry of Defence still does not know what exactly the Americans require from Britain.
December 19, 2002
UN Briefing Report on Iraq Inspections
By Dr Hans Blix, Executive Chairman of UNMOVIC
FIRST PART: SITUATION REPORT ON INSPECTION EFFORT
Before I take up the major subject of my briefing, which relates to the Declaration submitted by Iraq under operative paragraph 3 of resolution 1441(2002), I should like, with your permission, to report briefly on where the UNMOVIC inspection effort stands today, 41 days after the adoption of the resolution on 8 November.
As you will recall, inspections resumed on 27 November.
* Since then the number of UNMOVIC inspectors in Baghdad has increased from 11 to over 90. In addition there are some 55 support staff.
* Since the adoption of the resolution on 8 November, we have signed over 145 employment contracts, most of them for staff in Baghdad but some to strengthen our capacity here in New York.
* During the autumn, we have signed contracts for equipment and services amounting to some 32.3 million dollars, assuming that the services run for a year. Out of this, the largest part of 22.3 million will be for air operations.
* Since the adoption of the resolution, we have initiated an air shuttle between Larnaca in Cyprus and Baghdad, with a field office in Larnaca and service facilities at Saddam International Airport in Baghdad.
* We have recently deployed one helicopter to Baghdad and are expecting 7 more before the end of the year. All will be stationed at the Rasheed airbase, where the Iraqi authorities provide service facilities.
* We have put the Baghdad Ongoing Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Centre (BOMVIC) into operation and the Iraqi authorities are cooperating with us in the establishment of a field office in Mosul.
The build-up could hardly have been faster. We have benefited from the extensive preparations which we made for deployment during the past years, the training of potential inspectors, the early identification of potential suppliers and the identification of sites to be inspected at the initial phase. We have also benefited from the excellent cooperation and assistance extended to us by many divisions of the UN Secretariat in New York and by the UN organizations in Baghdad, Cyprus and Brindisi. Here, in New York, we have been given more office space necessary for our functioning but difficult to obtain in the crowded buildings of the UN. For Baghdad, we plan to expand the premises as soon as possible. The Iraqi cooperation has been very helpful for our logistical and infrastructure build-up.
SECOND PART: RESULTS SO FAR OF THE INSPECTION EFFORT
Let me next report on some of our activities and experiences from the past three weeks:
* We have inspected 44 sites declared by Iraq or inspected by UNSCOM or the IAEA in the past, among them 3 in the Mosul area and 8 newly-declared locations.
* We have inspected some sites, which were previously indicated by Iraq as sensitive or presidential. They were now inspected in the same manner as other sites.
* Access to sites has been prompt and assistance on the sites expeditious. It seems probable that a general instruction has been issued not in any way to delay or impede inspection of the kind of sites we have gone to so far. This is welcome and it is to be hoped that such an instruction will extend to all sites we may wish to inspect in the future, regardless of location, character and timing.
* With respect to the results of our inspections, I should note that several sites, which have been the subject of public discussion, have been inspected and questions as to their use may have been answered.
* We have identified the location of some artillery shells and containers with mustard gas. They were placed under UNSCOM supervision in 1998. They will now be sampled, and eventually destroyed.
* Criticism has been voiced by the Iraqi side regarding some inspections:
* The inspection of a presidential site took place without problems - after a minor delay in access. However, it was subsequently stated from the Iraqi side that the inspection was unjustified and that the inspectors could not have looked for weapons of mass destruction, as they did not wear protective gear. Clearly, we do not need to justify any of our selections of sites and one does not need protective gear to look for documents or computer files.
* Some sites were inspected last Friday - the Muslim day of rest. In one of them, the Iraqi staff were absent and a number of doors inside locked, with no keys available. The Iraqi side offered to break the doors open - while videotaping the event. However, they agreed with a suggestion that the doors in question could be sealed overnight and the offices inspected the next morning. Clearly, we have the right to undertake inspections at any time, night or day, whether on weekdays or religious holidays. We intend to exercise this right - not to harass - but to demonstrate that just as there are no sanctuaries in space there are no sanctuaries in time.
Let me report, lastly, two formal requests that we have directed to Iraq in conformity with the resolutions of the Security Council.
Under subparagraph 4 of paragraph 7 of resolution 1441 (2002), UNMOVIC has asked Iraq to provide the names of all personnel currently or formerly associated with some aspect of Iraq's programme of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles. During my talks in Baghdad last month,
I indicated that this request would be made and in the Declaration just submitted we find that, in several chapters, the Iraqi side has refrained from submitting names explicitly on the ground that they expected the request to come.
We have asked that the names be submitted to us before the end of the year and suggested that Iraq may proceed in pyramid fashion, starting from the leadership in programmes, going down to management, scientists, engineers and technicians but excluding the basic layer of workers.
The list of names may have several uses. It could, for instance, be of use to learn where those who earlier worked on the biological weapons programme, are now. Some persons on the list could be called for interviews. We certainly consider interviews in Iraq a potentially important source of information - as it has been in the past.
Taking persons to be interviewed and family members out of Iraq is authorized under paragraph 5 of resolution 1441 (2002) and is an option. Although Iraq would be obliged to cooperate, the practical arrangements would have to be carefully examined. Clearly, we could not take anybody out of Iraq without his or her consent.
The second formal request concerns legislation implementing Security Council resolutions. I have reminded the Iraqi side several times in the past year that it should be easy for it to enact such legislation, notably laws prohibiting legal and physical persons to engage in any way in the development, production or storing of weapons of mass destruction or missiles of proscribed range. Model legislation was, in fact, transmitted to Iraq by UNSCOM and the IAEA long ago.
A PRELIMINARY ASSESSMENT OF IRAQ'S DECLARATION OF 7 DECEMBER
I shall now turn to discuss those parts of Iraq's Declaration of 7 December, which concern biological and chemical weapons and long-range missiles.
I hope that my comments may be of some assistance especially to those Members of the Council who have only had the working version one day and who are about to begin their analytical work.
Although UNMOVIC has had access to this text a whole week before the working version was made available, our analysts have been fully occupied preparing the working version and my comments must necessarily be provisional. I trust there will be a further occasion for discussion, when all have had more time for study and analysis.
The first point to be made is that Iraq continues to state in the Declaration, as it has consistently done before its submission, that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, when inspectors left at the end of 1998 and that none have been designed, procured, produced or stored in the period since then.
While individual governments have stated that they have convincing evidence to the contrary, UNMOVIC at this point is neither in a position to confirm Iraq's statements, nor in possession of evidence to disprove it.
The purpose of the Security Council resolutions requiring Iraq to declare all WMD programmes and creating an extensive and intensive inspection system is to attain, through peaceful means, confidence that Iraq is rid of or ridding itself of all such programmes and proscribed items - verified disarmament.
A declaration cannot, if it stands alone, create confidence. The listing of sites or of persons, the reporting of production, importation, destruction and consumption figures and the opening of doors, giving access to inspections, is not enough to create confidence that no weapons programmes and proscribed items remain. The statements need to be supported by documentation or other evidence. Only so do they become verifiable.
During the period 1991-1998, Iraq submitted many declarations called full, final and complete. Regrettably, much in these declarations proved inaccurate or incomplete or was unsupported or contradicted by evidence. In such cases, no confidence can arise that proscribed programmes or items have been eliminated.
Such was the situation at the end of 1998, when inspectors left Iraq. The many question marks are documented in a report to the Council early in 1999 (S/1999/94) and in the so-called Amorim Report (S/1999/356). To these question marks, nearly four years without any inspection activity have been added.
In resolution 1441 (2002), Iraq was given an opportunity to provide a fresh declaration and to make it verifiable to the inspecting authorities by submitting supporting evidence. It remains to analyse in detail how much is clarified by the new declaration and supporting material. When we have performed a more thorough analysis, we may ask Iraq for supplementary information and clarifications.
The overall impression is that not much new significant information has been provided in the part of Iraq's Declaration, which relates to proscribed weapons programmes, nor has much new supporting documentation or other evidence been submitted. New material has, on the other hand, been provided concerning non-weapons related activities during the period from the end of 1998 to the present time.
It would appear that the part that covers biological weapons is essentially a reorganized version of a previous declaration provided by Iraq to UNSCOM in September 1997. In the chemical weapons area, the basis of the current Declaration is a declaration submitted by Iraq in 1996 with subsequent updates and explanations. In the missile field, the Declaration follows the same format, and seems to have largely the same content as Iraq's 1996 missile declaration and updates.
Although it must be noted that much of what Iraq has provided in the weapons part of its Declaration is not new, there are some sections of new material. In the chemical weapons field, Iraq has further explained its account of the material balance of precursors for chemical warfare agents. Although it does not resolve outstanding issues on this subject, it may help to achieve a better understanding of the fate of the precursors.
In the missile area, there is a good deal of information regarding Iraq's activities in the past few years. As declared by Iraq, these are permitted activities, which will be monitored by UNMOVIC to ensure that they comply with the relevant Council resolutions. A series of new projects have been declared that are at various stages of development. They include a design for a new liquid oxygen/ethanol propellant engine and replacement of guidance systems for several surface-to-air missiles. These projects will need to be investigated and evaluated by UNMOVIC.
Iraq has also provided information on a short-range rocket that is manufactured using 81 mm aluminium tubes. Although this is not a new disclosure, the information may be relevant to well-publicized reports concerning the importation of aluminium tubes. At this stage, UNMOVIC has drawn no conclusions concerning the tubes, and further investigation of this will be conducted.
While I am on the subject of new information, I would like to mention a document recently provided by Iraq. This is the so-called Air Force document, which was once in the hands of an UNSCOM inspector and which relates to the consumption of chemical munitions in the Iraq/Iran War. Potentially, it could assist in resolving some questions relating to the material balance of chemical weapons. We are now closely examining this document to establish the scope of the information and to evaluate it in the light of information in our archives. It is too early to say whether it will support the information in Iraq's Declaration.
I now turn to some inconsistencies and issues that will need clarification. In the biological area, Iraq previously provided, in its submission to the Amorim panel in February 1999, a table concerning the additional import of bacterial growth media. Growth media was used by Iraq in the production of anthrax and other biological warfare agents. This table has been omitted from the current Declaration and the reasons for the omission need to be explained.
In the civilian chemical area, Iraq has declared that it has repaired and installed equipment that had previously been destroyed under UNSCOM supervision, under Council resolution 687 (1991). The equipment is now at a civilian chemical plant and used for the production of chlorine and other chemicals.
An UNMOVIC team has recently inspected both the plant and the equipment. Consideration will now need to be given to the fate of this equipment, as well as other equipment, which was presumed destroyed.
In the missile area, Iraq has declared the development of a missile known as the Al Samoud, which uses components from an imported surface-to-air missile.
A variant of the Al Samoud, with a larger diameter (760 mm) than the standard version (500 mm) has been declared. Because of the potential of such a missile, UNSCOM had informed Iraq that such a development should not proceed until technical discussions had resolved the question of capability. In the latest update of the semi-annual monitoring declarations, Iraq has declared that in 13 flight tests of the Al Samoud the missile has exceeded the permitted range. The greatest range achieved was 183 kilometres.
The use of components from the imported surface-to-air missile, which I have just mentioned, was also the subject of the letters of March 1994 and November 1997 in which the Executive Chairman of UNSCOM stated that the activity was not permitted. Iraq disputed the UNSCOM view that the activity was in violation of its obligations. From its current Declaration, it appears that Iraq has, in fact, proceeded with the conversion in recent years. The whole issue will now need to be considered.
I have covered new information in Iraq's Declaration, some inconsistencies, and issues that need to be considered or clarified through investigation or technical discussions.
As there is little new substantive information in the weapons part of Iraq's Declaration, or new supporting documentation, the issues that were identified as unanswered in the Amorim report (S/1999/356) and in UNSCOM's report (S/1999/94) remain unresolved. In most cases, the issues are outstanding not because there is information that contradicts Iraq's account, but simply because there is a lack of supporting evidence. Such supporting evidence, in the form of documentation, testimony by individuals who took part, or physical evidence, for example, destroyed warheads, is required to give confidence that Iraq's Declaration is indeed accurate, full and complete.
The issues that have previously been identified include the unilateral destruction of indigenously produced "training" missile engines, the accounting for 50 conventional warheads declared to be unilaterally destroyed but not recovered, 550 mustard gas shells declared lost after the Gulf War, declarations concerning the production and weaponization of the nerve agent VX, the declared unilateral destruction of biological warfare agents and Iraq's declaration concerning the material balance of bacterial growth media.
While in most cases issues are outstanding because there is a lack of supporting evidence, in a few cases, there is information in our possession that would appear to contradict Iraq's account. At this point, I will only mention that there are indications suggesting that Iraq's account of its production and unilateral destruction of anthrax during the period between 1988 and 1991, may not be accurate. On this matter, we shall certainly ask Iraq to provide explanations and further evidence.
FOURTH PART: OUTLOOK
What role will the inspection system play if Iraq fails to provide evidence supporting its statements that there remain no weapons of mass destruction and that nothing was produced or developed or stored during the period from the end of 1998 until now?
Inspections of sites have, as one important objective, the verification of industrial, military, research and other current activities with a view to assuring that no proscribed programmes or activities are regenerated at any site in Iraq. This side of the inspection system can be characterized as a form of containment. Through the other side of the system of reinforced monitoring, there is a continuation of investigations to complete the requirement of disarmament, as laid down in resolution 687 (1991) and many subsequent resolutions.
The sites to be inspected in the future are not only those which have been declared by Iraq or inspected in the past, but also any new sites which may become known through procurement information, interviews, defectors, open sources, intelligence or overhead imagery. New techniques and increasing resources are available for this effort.
The use of multiple teams - in all disciplines - operating in parallel all over Iraq has been the basis for planning our inspections. To decrease the possibility of prediction, no systematic patterns are being followed. Advanced technology will play its role once procurement is finalized. Not only monitoring equipment, such as cameras and sensors, will be used but also surveillance over-flights from various platforms, including fixed-wing aircraft, drones and helicopters.
Inspection activities at sites seek to establish the operational objectives of sites. They comprise searches for proscribed material and equipment, as well as documents and computers. Sampling may also provide important information related to any undeclared activities at sites. Arrangements are in place for the procurement of chemical and biological analytical facilities to be installed at our Baghdad Centre. None of these tools and inspection activities will guarantee that all possibly concealed items and activities will be found, but based on the extensive authority given in resolution 1441 (2002) and backed by a united Security Council, they will make any attempted concealment more difficult.
December 18, 2002
UN probes Iraqi army missile unit as inspections enter fourth week
by Lamia Radi, Agence France Presse
UN arms expert in Iraq investigated Wednesday for the first time an army missile unit as their inspections moved into a fourth week, an Iraqi official said.
Meanwhile, chief nuclear inspector Mohamed ElBaradei said in an interview with an Egyptian daily that no proof has emerged yet that Iraq worked on a nuclear programme since the previous inspection regime ended in 1998.
A ballistics team of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) visited "one of the military units specialised in launching missiles" in Balad, some 70 kilometers (42 miles) northwest of Baghdad, the Iraqi official said. He reported no untoward incident. The daily statement issued by UNMOVIC and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on inspections did not confirm the visit. It said one ballistics team "visited the site of the former Taji Project 144" of long-range missile and warhead production, "about 50 kilometers (30 miles) northwest of Baghdad."
UNMOVIC and IAEA monitors have already inspected military sites, missile testing ranges and production facilities, but it was the first time they probed a military missile unit.
UN Security Council Resolution 687, which defined the terms of the 1991 Gulf War ceasefire, prohibits Iraq from acquiring or developing biological, chemical and nuclear weapons as well as long-range missiles.
During the 1991 Gulf War, Iraq fired several improved Soviet-supplied Scud missiles on Israel and Saudi Arabia. Baghdad says all its long-range Scuds and locally-made Al-Hussein missiles were destroyed in 1991, either unilaterally or under the supervision of the previous UN body tasked with disarmament, the Special Commission (UNSCOM). But UNSCOM had said Iraq could not account for the destruction of two Scuds and seven Al-Husseins.
According to the UN inspectors' statement, nine teams probed eight sites Wednesday, in and around Baghdad and in northern Iraq, checking military, industrial and academic facilities. One UNMOVIC biological team and another from the IAEA were working in the region of Mosul 400 kilometers (250 miles) north of Baghdad, after arriving there Tuesday. The UNMOVIC team in Mosul inspected on Tuesday a phamaceutical company and a yeast factory the next day before winding up its visit to the northern region. The UN statement did not specify a visit to the biology department of Mosul University, reported earlier by an Iraqi official.
Iraq admitted in 1995, after four years of denials, that it had weaponised germ warfare agents. According to UNSCOM, 30 tonnes of agents remain unaccounted for.
The IAEA team was working near the Saddam Dam on the Tigris river, near Mosul, probably sampling water, according to the Iraqi official. The UN report did not disclose its activity.
Other inspections covered a military depot and engineering and painting factories.
UN spokesman Tuesday that some 100 inspections had been carried out at around 80 sites since UN inspections resumed on November 27, after a four-year absence. He explained that some sites were huge compounds containing several factories and their search required several inspections. ElBaradei, the IAEA director general, told the Egyptian government daily Al-Ahram, there is "no proof concerning the development of a nuclear programme in Iraq since 1998." But he said that inspections were still in a preliminary stage, and the IAEA was expecting information on Iraq's nuclear programme from other countries.
The inspectors plan to use helicopters to speed up their searches. Ueki said a Bell 212 helicopter was "almost ready" for use, the first in a planned flotilla of eight aircraft including five Bell 212s and three Russian-made Mi-8s to be supplied at the end of the month. There are currently 105 inspectors operating in Iraq -- 19 from the IAEA and 86 from UNMOVIC.
December 17, 2002
Small Clues to the Big Picture in Baghdad; U.N. Inspections Run Gamut, From Top Secret to Seemingly Mundane
by Peter Baker, The Washington Post
U.N. inspectors, wearing baby-blue baseball caps and armbands, were roaming through a missile factory the other day when they came across a room with a couple of ominous warning signs posted outside: "Caution," the signs said. "Risk of Ionizing Radiation."
What's in there? the inspectors asked. Just an X-ray machine, the plant director answered. Show us, they said. So, as the plant director recalled, he escorted the team into the room and put some metal into the machine. Out came the film familiar to anyone who has been X-rayed, he said.
In the three weeks they have been scouring Iraq for evidence of weapons of mass destruction, U.N. arms experts have been poking and prodding everywhere they can, testing seemingly innocent explanations, rifling through files, taking soil and water samples, measuring the air for radiation. At a distillery suspected of developing biological weapons, they smelled the alcohol. At a missile factory, they had a rocket test-fired to make sure it did not exceed range restrictions.
The inspectors in Iraq, whose ranks increased over the weekend to 105, have accelerated their schedule to full speed and now fan out early each morning to facilities throughout the Baghdad area and beyond, from a cement factory to a pesticide store, from the most secretive of military bases to government research centers. They visited 13 sites yesterday, their busiest day yet, as they worked to collect and collate information to report to the U.N. Security Council on the status of Iraq's banned weapons programs.
So far, the inspectors have disclosed few findings and drawn no conclusions. That is the work of higher-ups at U.N. headquarters in New York, where diplomats are keenly aware that the outcome of the searches could bring a decision by the Bush administration on whether to wage war on Iraq. "It will take us some time to come up with a bigger picture," said Hiro Ueki, Baghdad spokesman for the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, or UNMOVIC.
But as they settle into a routine, the inspectors have begun focusing more attention on a handful of the most critical facilities. Nuclear experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency, for instance, have learned the route to the town of Tuwaitha all too well. About 15 miles southeast of Baghdad, it is home to the Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center, the heart of Iraq's nuclear program.
Iraq has said it halted its nuclear weapons development program a decade ago. Inspectors have combed through the sprawling Tuwaitha facility six times so far to inventory nuclear materials, most recently on Sunday when they took samples of water and silt.
Inspectors have also spent considerable time at the Qaqaa complex not far from Tuwaitha, where they have searched for indications of nuclear or chemical weapons. They first showed up there on Nov. 30 to remove an air sampler, and then returned five more times, including yesterday, to examine an explosives production plant and a sulfuric acid plant.
More and more, inspectors are choosing to return to facilities they had already inspected. Most of the inspections yesterday, for example, were repeat visits. However, since making a visit to a presidential palace to test their ability to get in, they have not gone to any of the dozens of others, sticking at least for now to more conventional and less provocative locations.
To avoid becoming too predictable, however, the inspectors have tried to maintain the advantage of surprise. Over the weekend, for instance, nuclear specialists showed up after dark at the Muahaweel military base south of Baghdad.
So far, they have encountered none of the intransigence that marked their predecessors' experience in Iraq during the 1990s, which led to their withdrawal in 1998 and a subsequent four-day U.S.-British bombing campaign. Iraqi officials have kept to their word in opening the gates when the U.N. teams arrive. The one time a lone duty officer did not have a key, the inspectors sealed rooms and returned the next day to find no sign of tampering.
Recognizing that demonstrating openness may be the best way to undercut international support for war, Iraqi officials urge foreign journalists to cover the inspections each day instead of turning to another subject.
"The weapons inspections carried out so far have uncovered the lies of Britain and the United States, and Iraq will continue cooperation with the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission to ensure the success of its mission," Gen. Hossam Mohammed Amin, head of the National Monitoring Directorate, the Iraqi liaison to the United Nations, told the official Al-Iraq newspaper last week.
To test that further, the chief U.N. weapons inspector, Hans Blix, has asked Iraq to produce a list of scientists associated with its weapons programs by the end of the year, possibly so they can be interviewed outside the country. During an interview on Lebanese television yesterday, Amin reiterated that Iraq would comply.
The inspection process has taken the U.N. experts far and wide. Not long ago, they showed up at the gate of the Al Abraj distillery, which produces about 100 cases of gin, whiskey and arrack a day. About six inspectors toured the factory, 12 miles south of Baghdad, checking out the bottling conveyor belts and the steam cleaners and the storerooms filled with labels, cardboard cartons and jugs of fruit flavors.
Alber Poulus Younan, the plant director, pulled a rubber hose from the machines, let a liquid that was 96 percent alcohol spill over his hand and held it up for the inspectors to smell, as he did again yesterday for a couple of visiting journalists. Whatever else it might be, a look around left no doubt that the Christian-owned Al Abraj produces many bottles of booze. "It's a factory for drink," Younan said. "They're looking for something special. I don't know what it is."
The answer came in what the inspectors showed most interest in -- the fermenters. Five giant, rusting 40-cubic-yard vats sat in a building with labels that were attached to the vats by other inspectors four years ago. The new inspectors checked the bar codes against their records and moved on.
Fermenters can be critical to the weaponization of such biological pathogens as anthrax. But Younan and the distillery's owner, Shakir Easa, laughed at the notion that their machines produce killer spores. "It's funny, because any simple citizen of the world comes to this place and he can tell it's just an alcohol factory," Easa said.
Another team of inspectors spent nearly three hours last weekend at a missile factory in Abu Ghraib, 25 miles west of Baghdad. The plant director, Hussein Mohammed, told the inspectors that he produces only al-Samoud liquid-propellant rockets that travel less than the 93-mile limit imposed by U.N. sanctions, contrary to assertions by the U.S. government.
With the sound of clanging metal and the odor of industrial cleaning fluid in the air, men in white smocks and women in head scarves stared at the inspectors as they examined the 18 buildings surrounded by a fence topped with concertina wire. Hanging above them in the courtyard was a massive tile portrait of President Saddam Hussein.
Mohammed said he had no warning the inspectors were coming. "Even as they were arriving, I learned they were here," he said. But neither, he added, did he have anything to hide. "We want the inspectors to show that we're not making any such weapons and we hope that the Security Council will take a decision to lift the blockade against the Iraqi people," he said.
December 17, 2002
UN inspectors put Iraq's germ warfare capabilities under microscope
by Kamal Taha, Agence France Presse
At least seven groups of UN weapons inspectors were out Tuesday searching for suspected weapons of mass destruction, focusing on Iraq's germ warfare capabilities.
A team of biological experts from the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) returned to the University of Baghdad, where a biotechnical institute was investigated Monday, an AFP correspondent reported.
The target of the new probe was another biotechnology department that carries out basic research and post-graduate teaching, said UN spokesman Hiro Ueki in a statement. "It's their first visit to the department. They asked about the professors and employees, those who work here and who were transferred," the head of the department, Alice Krikor Hagop, told AFP. "We gave them all information; they visited all the labs."
She said the department was created in 1999, after the suspension of the previous disarmament inspection regime implemented by the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM). The inspectors probed Monday the university's Institute of Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering. According to a 1999 UNSCOM report, the University of Baghdad was used to procure biological weapons equipment and agents.
UNSCOM had asked Iraq to account for 30 tonnes of biowarfare agents, including botulinum toxin, anthrax and aflatoxin.
In 1995, after four years of denials and a key defection, Iraq admitted it had run a germ warfare programme. But Baghdad insists it was terminated before the start of UNSCOM's operations in 1991, and that all stocks and records were destroyed.
Four other UNMOVIC teams specialising in germ warfare, chemical weapons and missiles went out on inspection Tuesday together with two teams from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said Ueki. Six teams probed sites in and around Baghdad. Also, one IAEA team and one UNMOVIC biological team headed for the northern city of Mosul and were expected to stay there overnight, said the spokesman, declining to specify the sites to be inspected in this area.
Ballistics experts investigated plants producing fuels and motor cases for Russian-made surface-to-air SA-2 missiles and locally made short-range missiles. Chemical experts revisited the Falluja II site that produces phenol, 100 kilometers (60 miles) west of Baghdad.
The inspectors plan to use helicopters to speed up their searches. Ueki said a Bell 212 helicopter was "almost ready" for use, the first in a planned flotilla of eight aircraft including five Bell 212s and three Russian-made Mi-8s to be supplied at the end of the month.
He said around 80 sites were probed so far across Iraq since disarmament inspections resumed on November 27 to test Iraq's rejection of allegations that it still possesses and is developing weapons of mass destruction. There are currently 105 inspectors operating in Iraq -- 19 from the IAEA and 86 from UNMOVIC.
In addition to searches, Iraq said Sunday the inspectors had begun taking the names of its weapons scientists. The United Nations announced last week that it had given Iraq until the end of this month to provide a complete list of scientists involved in its banned weapons programmes. "I understand they are working on it," Ueki said. Iraq's list should "include names from the top down to the level of scientists and engineers," he added when asked how far the list went down the chain of responsibility. Iraq's top liaison with the inspectors, General Hossam Mohammed Amin, had previously said Baghdad was drawing up the list and waiting for a formal request from the United Nations.
Under Resolution 1441 adopted by the UN Security Council last month, the inspectors have new powers to whisk scientists and their families abroad so that they can be interviewed without any risk of Iraqi intimidation. US Secretary of State Colin Powell said Monday that the resolution "provides for those who need to be interviewed to be made available. "If Iraq does not comply with that requirement of the resolution, I'm sure the international community will take note and decide what action is appropriate," he said.
December 17, 2002
U.N. inspectors search Baghdad University
United Press International
U.N. arms inspectors searched several Iraqi sites Tuesday, including the department of natural sciences at Baghdad University.
The head of the department, Lamis Karikor, told reporters at the end of the inspection by a team from the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, that the experts questioned a number of professors and teachers. "The questions were normal and common and not provocative at all," he said. "The professors at the department, which was set up in 1999, answered all the inspectors' questions. The search was completed without any findings." Another UNMOVIC team headed to an undisclosed site on the main road linking Baghdad to the northern city of Mosul.
A team from the International Atomic Energy Agency inspected the Radwan site west of Baghdad that is run by the department of military industries.
A team of UNMOVIC chemical experts also searched a medical plant some 360 miles north of Baghdad, while missile experts inspected an installation that manufactures missile parts for the second time in less than 24 hours. The Sawari site, also run by the department of military industries, produces parts for surface-to-surface missiles that have a range of less than 95 miles as permitted under U.N. Security Council resolutions.
A foreign ministry statement said Tuesday the international inspectors searched on Monday the government-run al Rafidain Bank for the first time since inspections resumed Nov. 27 after a four-year gap. It said the inspectors also searched administrative and financial documents in suspected sites in addition to production departments for evidence of weapons of mass destruction.
Monday night, President Saddam Hussein's armaments adviser, Brig. Ahmed al-Saadi, described as hasty and biased U.S., British, and Australian doubts about the content of Iraq's declaration of weapons of mass destruction, submitted earlier this month to the United Nations. But Al Saadi praised Hans Blix, who heads the U.N. inspectors, and IAEA President Mohammed AlBaradei for their objectivity.
December 16, 2002
UN inspects 11 Iraqi sites, asks about nuclear scientists
Agence France Presse
Weapons inspectors probed 11 sites in and around Baghdad Monday, searching for prohibited weapons and collecting data on scientists involved in a previous nuclear program, a UN spokesman said.
The inspections were carried out by the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Hiro Ueki said in a statement.
"One IAEA team conducted a joint inspection with the UNMOVIC missile team of the Saad General Company (an engineering firm) that includes a number of personnel from the former nuclear weapons programme organisation Petrochemical Complex-3," Ueki said. He did not say if company staff had faced questioning.
The spokesman told AFP around 80 military and industrial facilities have been checked by UN inspectors since they resumed work in Iraq in late November after a four-year absence. "Around 80 sites have been visited, so far so good," Ueki said. UNMOVIC is tasked with investigating Iraq's biological, chemical and ballistic activities while the IAEA checks its nuclear capability.
A record number of 14 inspections were carried out Saturday according to Ueki, who updated a previous figure of 11 inspections with late visits undertaken the same day. The pace of inspections has accelerated in the past few days as the number of inspectors grew to 105 on Sunday, including 86 from UNMOVIC and 19 from the IAEA.
Inspectors investigated facilities of an Iraqi university for the first time Monday, visiting the Institute for Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering on the Baghdad University campus. "The institute is engaged in training, teaching and research activities in biotechnology and genetic engineering," said Ueki's press release.
Other teams inspected a chemical complex that contains an explosives plant, a testing range for small rockets, a fiberglass factory and a serum and vaccine institute.
An Iraqi spokesman said earlier that UN inspectors have also begun asking Iraqi officials for the names of scientists involved in the country's former nuclear program. An IAEA team made the request Sunday during an inspection of the Glass and Ceramic Company in Ramadi, 100 kilometers (60 miles) west of Baghdad. It was the first time Baghdad or the UN have acknowledged experts are also collecting data on those involved in Iraq's former or suspected current arms programs since they resumed daily inspections on November 27. The United Nations announced last week it had given Iraq until the end of the month to provide a complete list of scientists involved in its banned weapons programmes. Iraq's top liaison officer to the UN inspectors, General Hossam Mohammed Amin, had previously said Baghdad was drawing up the list and waiting for a formal request from the United Nations.
Under Resolution 1441 adopted by the UN Security Council in November, the inspectors have broad powers to whisk scientists and their families abroad so they may be interviewed without a risk of Iraqi intimidation.
December 15, 2002
Ambiguity shrouds 'material breach' U.N. council didn't define term for Iraq
by Michael J. Jordan, The Denver Post
UNITED NATIONS - With U.N. weapons inspectors sniffing around Iraq and creating turbulence with Baghdad, what sort of incident, or pattern of behavior, might trigger war?
The 'creative ambiguity' that enabled all 15 members of the U.N. Security Council to vote for Resolution 1441, which threatened Iraq to disarm or else, failed to define what exactly might constitute a 'further material breach' - a phrase in the resolution generally understood to sanction force - of Iraq's legal obligation to dismantle its nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and weapons programs. Iraqi cooperation with inspectors may therefore be in the eye of the beholder, analysts said.
'Undoubtedly there will be varying interpretations; there always are,' said David Malone, a former Canadian ambassador to the U.N. and president of the International Peace Academy. 'Every party to a negotiation has to feel they are winning something. The U.S. consented to that ambiguity. And as the French say, they're adult and vaccinated - they know what they're doing, and they can't claim they weren't party to this ambiguity.' Nothing in the declaration specifies what may constitute a 'further material breach' of the resolution. Whether that could be a missing document, discovery of a key component for illicit weapons, or a short delay in access to a site is open to interpretation.
'They're always afraid to provide a specific list because it may not be comprehensive enough, and the one thing not on the list they hadn't thought of may in fact be the trigger,' said Malone. 'The council likes to leave itself a lot of leeway.' As a result, though, 'everything is open to interpretation,' he said.
Most observers are taking a wait-and-see approach: Let's see what the inspectors come up with, if Saddam Hussein missteps, or if Washington or London produces a verifiable smoking gun. What seems certain is that the Bush administration risks appearing petty if, despite President Bush's vow of 'zero tolerance,' it does go after something relatively minor.
Appearances will count.
The White House should not seize upon a 'flimsy or hasty excuse to go to war,' U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said last month after meeting with President Bush. 'We need to be patient and give the inspectors time and space to do their work. We should not be seen as rushing the process and impatiently moving on to the next phase,' he said.
The implications could be dramatic.
If the council were to fracture - observers have long blamed disunity for having hamstrung efforts to force Iraq's disarmament, which Baghdad agreed to as a condition of its Gulf War surrender in 1991 - the Bush administration might be forced to cobble together a 'coalition of the willing' to attack Iraq. And without the U.N. mandate, the U.S. might once again be painted as unilateralist.
The U.N. resolution states that 'false statements (or) omissions in the declarations submitted by Iraq a and failure by Iraq at any time to comply with, and cooperate fully in the implementation of, this resolution shall constitute a further material breach of Iraq's obligations and will be reported to the council for assessment.' And this time around, Bush has pledged a zero tolerance policy toward obstruction or deception by Hussein.
But if France and Russia dispute whether Iraq is cooperating with weapons inspectors, or has lied in the 12,000-page declaration Iraq submitted roughly a week ago spelling out its claim that it owns no nuclear, biological or chemical weapons - council unity may once again rupture.
Noted one Bush administration official close to the process: 'That doesn't mean the council will decide what to do next, or that we'll wait for a decision. The council will only assess. But it does not tie the hands of any council member that wishes to act.' The official, though, indicates he still holds out hope that future Iraqi missteps will appear cut and dried to council members and the rest of the world. 'I think it will be clear to everybody when Iraq is trying to impede the process,' said the official, who is close to the process. 'But what that is, it's hard to say.' But the official declined to speculate if the situation were not crystal clear.
Indeed, some analysts question whether France or Russia would ever sign off on force. They are Baghdad's biggest backers on the council, have substantial trade and energy interests with Iraq, and traditionally resist any effort to 'get tough' with Hussein.
'We had that during the '90s and you'll have that again - division on the council over what cooperation means,' said Terence Taylor, a U.N. weapons inspector from 1993-97 and an analyst with the International Institute for Strategic Studies. 'Some council members have an aversion to the use of force and a predisposition to take a more optimistic view of what the Iraqis are trying to deliver, without force being applied.'
For now, Hussein, seems to be on his best behavior. But Iraq watchers predict that once the spotlight dims, he'll resume his past bob-and-weave tactics with inspectors. Some analysts said France and Russia would only approve force if inspectors were to uncover something sensational, such as production of chemical and biological weapons - along with concrete plans to use them.
French and Russian diplomats decline to speculate on what might constitute a serious breach. But they said any decision to go to war must pass through the council - the only world body entrusted to 'maintain international peace and security.'
'Inspectors will inspect and determine any violations, then they'll report to the council, and the council will decide what to do next,' said one Russian U.N. diplomat, who asked not to be identified in offering his country's interpretation of the resolution. 'From the Bush administration, a lot of words were said, but in the end they preferred to act through the Security Council. And I think that's the right way in international affairs. Only the Security Council has the legitimate right to use force, if necessary, according to international law.'
If the U.S. presses for a military response, but senses Paris or Moscow will veto, the Bush administration has vowed to piece together a coalition from outside the U.N. If, however, the French and Russians resist but do not brandish the veto, Washington may be legally justified to lead a coalition from within the council.
Lost in all this is the heat on inspectors of the U.N. Monitoring, Observation and Inspection Commission. UNMOVIC may be the one thing standing between Washington and war with Baghdad. Which may lead the inspectors to be more cautious than the Bush administration might hope for, said Tim McCarthy, who participated in 15 missile inspections of Iraq from 1994-98. UNMOVIC's first report is due at the end of January.
"There's no doubt they'll be a) under a tremendous amount of pressure and scrutiny, and b) well aware of this," said McCarthy, an analyst with the Monterey Institute of International Studies' Center for Nonproliferation Studies. "If that door isn't open, and it's taken 20 minutes, 45 minutes, an hour, where is the line where you report it as noncompliance, or do you just decide it's some sort of screw-up? Those will be tough decisions."
December 15, 2002
UN inspectors step up search for weapons in Iraq: A dozen sites visited. No sign of tampering on doors, windows of centre where they were kept out Friday
by Nadia Abou El-magd, Montreal Gazette
Reinforced with newly arrived staff, United Nations weapons inspectors stepped up their search yesterday, visiting a dozen sites in Iraq - including rooms at an infectious-disease centre where they were denied access a day earlier.
"Today was probably the single largest" group of sites inspected since the teams returned to Iraq on Nov. 27 after a four-year hiatus, said Hiro Ueki, a UN spokesman in Baghdad. He said inspectors had visited a total of 70 sites.
After their first known snag, inspectors revisited the Communicable Disease Control Centre in Baghdad yesterday, entering rooms that had been locked on Friday. Inspectors said in a statement that there was no sign of tampering with seals they applied to doors and windows at the centre when they were denied access. They said yesterday's inspection lasted about an hour.
Iraqi officials said the rooms had been locked because Friday, the Muslim day of prayer, is a day off for doctors and other workers who had keys. With the arrival of 15 additional inspectors yesterday, the total now stands at 113.
Iraq received chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix's demand yesterday for a list of all personnel currently and formerly associated with the country's chemical, biological and ballistic missile programs, a UN official said. The UN Security Council resolution that ordered the resumed inspections authorizes teams to interview any Iraqi inside the country and without Iraqi officials present, or to take the person out of Iraq with his or her family.
One site visited yesterday was the main Iraqi nuclear centre where nearly two tonnes of low-grade enriched uranium are stored. Inspection teams also went to a Scud-missile facility that had been used to make bomb casings for chemical weapons before the end of the 1991 Gulf War.
Also yesterday, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, opening the Al-Merbad Poetry Festival in Baghdad, lashed out at the United States and Israel, saying they were bent on the destruction of Muslims.
"Imperialism as represented by the centre of evil, America and its Zionist ally, are waging an oppressive aggression that targets the existence of the Islamic community and its future," said Aziz, who was wearing a military uniform. "The imminent goal is Iraq and Palestine, the ultimate goal is the whole Islamic community."
U.S. jets, meanwhile, used "precision guided weapons" against three air-defence installations yesterday morning south and east of Baghdad after Iraqi military jets violated the southern no-fly zone, the U.S. Central Command said.
"They (the Iraqi warplanes) went south. I cannot begin to ascertain what their motivation was in doing so other than plainly violating the zone," Central Command spokesman Maj. Pete Mitchell told the Associated Press in Washington.
U.S. and coalition aircraft have patrolled the southern and northern no-fly zones since the Gulf War ended. The zones were established to prevent Saddam Hussein's government from attacking the Kurdish minority in the north of the country and the Shi'ites in the south. They have not been approved by the UN.
The inspection of the Scud complex, the government-owned al-Nasr company, 50 kilometres north of Baghdad, was a re-examination of the facility that also houses sophisticated machine tools that can, for example, help manufacture gas centrifuges. Such centrifuges are used to "enrich" uranium to bomb-grade level - a method favoured by the Iraqis in their bomb program of the late 1980s.
The al-Tuwaitha nuclear facility 50 kilometres southeast of Baghdad contains 1.8 tonnes of low-grade enriched uranium and several tonnes of natural and depleted uranium.
UN nuclear agency inspectors who visited the site yesterday have said the materials are of such low radioactivity that they could not easily be turned into weapons. The uranium has been in storage since the end of the Gulf War. Iraqi officials said the nuclear facility had been destroyed twice - by the Israelis in 1981 during the Iran-Iraq war and by the U.S.-led coalition during the Gulf War a decade later.
December 15, 2002
UN probes Iraq defence factories, reinforces inspection mission
by Hassan Jouini, Agence France Presse
UN weapons experts probed factories linked to missile and warhead production Sunday, as they prepared to step up the pace of disarmament checks in Iraq with new reinforcements of personnel and equipment. At least four inspection teams went out into the field, an AFP correspondent reported.
An International Atomic Energy Agency team swooped on a plant run by the Um al-Maarik (Mother of All Battles) General Company, in Yusufiya, 30 kilometers (18 miles) west of Baghdad.
Nuclear inspectors had previously visited another plant run by the same firm south of Baghdad on November 30, but had told the company managers they were coming, denying the element of surprise deemed crucial to inspections of suspect sites. According to UN reports, some facilities of the company, named after Baghdad's term for the 1991 Gulf War, were previously linked to Iraq's production of missile warheads.
A team from the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) meanwhile entered the Nasr State Establishment, which lies some 18 kilometers (11 miles) north of Baghdad in the huge al-Taji compound.
According to UN reports, before 1991 the Nasr factories manufactured R400 bombs that were later filled with deadly biological agents in a germ warfare trial carried out at another facility.
A second UNMOVIC team inspected the Al-Mutasim Company, 60 kilometers (36 miles) south of the capital. The missile plant occupies the site of the former Al-Atheer nuclear facility.
According to a British government report released in September and based on intelligence sources, Iraq has worked to extend the range of the locally-made Al-Samud missile to at least 200 kilometers (120 miles), beyond the 150-kilometer (90-mile) limit set by UN Security Council Resolution 687.
Under the resolution, which set out the terms of the Gulf War ceasefire, Iraq has the obligation to declare and place under UN supervision any equipment that could be of dual civilian and military use, in addition to dismantling its non-conventional weapons and long-range missiles.
Iraq formally denied possessing any banned weapons in a 12,000-page inventory delivered to the United Nations on December 8 and has challenged the United States to prove its contention that the document contains gaping holes.
UN arms inspectors carried out a record 11 site visits Saturday, and their pace was set to further "accelerate" with the arrival of 20 more inspectors Sunday, UN spokesman Hiro Ueki said. This will bring the total to 113, "quite a large number," said Ueki. Ueki said the UN mission was also waiting for equipment, communications gear, vehicles and helicopters which would allow the inspections to reach "cruising speed". The inspectors have "one Bell 212 helicopter ready for operations and others will arrive later this month," he said.
The United Nations has also given Iraq until the end of the month to provide a complete list of scientists involved in its banned arms programmes. "What we expect from the list is from the top to the level of scientists and engineers. We are not talking about the sweepers," Ueki said when asked on Saturday how far down the chain of involvement the UN request went.
UN inspectors have come under mounting US pressure to make greater use of tough new disarmament powers, including the authority to whisk scientists and their families abroad to ensure they are being interviewed without any possibility of intimidation.
But Hollywood star Sean Penn, who has been feted by the official media here during a three-day visit to Baghdad, Sunday broke with his previous media silence to speak out strongly against Washington's hard line. In a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz Saturday, the US actor and director had already spoken to the Iraqi media of his opposition to US threats of military action.
December 14, 2002
U.N. inspectors welcomed 15 newly arrived team members, visited 12 sites in Iraq
by Nadia Abou El-magd, Associated Press Worldstream
U.N. inspectors picked up the pace Saturday, visiting a dozen sites in Iraq, welcoming 15 newly arrived team members and successfully gaining access to rooms at an infectious disease center they were locked out of a day earlier. "Today was probably the single largest" group of sites inspected since the teams returned to Iraq, said Hiro Ueki, a spokesman for the U.N. program in Baghdad. "A dozen sites were inspected today," bring the total to about 70 sites since the U.N. workers returned Nov. 27 after a four year hiatus.
The first known snag for the inspectors, the locked rooms they were unable to get into Friday, the Muslim day of prayer, were unsealed and inspected first thing Saturday. "The inspection was completed in about one hour," the inspectors said in a statement issued late Saturday. They said there were no signs of tampering with the seals applied to doors and windows Friday.
The Iraqis explained that the inspection attempt occurred on the Muslim day off for doctors and other workers at the Communicable Disease Control Center and no one else had keys to the rooms. With the arrival of 15 additional inspectors Saturday, the total now stands at 113.
Also on Saturday, Iraq received chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix demand for a list of all personnel currently and formerly associated with the country's chemical, biological and ballistic missile programs, a U.N. official said. Under the U.N. Security Council resolution that returned the inspectors, the teams are authorized to interview any Iraqi inside the country and without Iraqi officials present or to take the person out of Iraq with his or her family.
One of the sites visited Saturday was the main Iraqi nuclear center where nearly two tons of low-grade enriched uranium are in storage. Inspection teams also went to a Scud missile facility that had been used to make bomb casings for chemical weapons in the days before the end of the 1991 Gulf War.
Also, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, opening the Al-Merbad Poetry Festival Saturday in Baghdad, lashed out at the United States and Israel, saying they were bent on the destruction of Muslims. "Imperialism as represented by the center of evil, America and its Zionist ally are waging an oppressive aggression that targets the existence of the Islamic community and its future," said Aziz, who was dressed in a military uniform. "The imminent goal is Iraq and Palestine, the ultimate goal is the whole Islamic community."
U.S. jets, meanwhile, used "precision guided weapons" against three air-defense installations Saturday morning south and east of Baghdad after Iraqi military jets violated the southern no-fly zone, the U.S. Central Command said.
"They (the Iraqi warplanes) went south. I cannot begin to ascertain what their motivation was in doing so other than plainly violating the zone," Central Command spokesman Maj. Pete Mitchell told The Associated Press in Washington. The official Iraqi news agency reported the attacks as well, saying "enemy warplanes bombed civil and service installations" in three provinces in the no-fly zone.
U.S. and coalition aircraft have patrolled the southern and northern no-fly zones since the Gulf War ended. The zones were established to prevent Saddam Hussein from attacking the Kurdish minority in the north of the country and the Shiites in the south.
The inspection of the Scud complex, the government-owned al-Nasr company, 30 miles north of Baghdad, was a re-examination of the facility that also houses sophisticated machine tools that can, for example, help manufacture gas centrifuges. Such centrifuges are used to "enrich" uranium to bomb-grade level - a method favored by the Iraqis in their bomb program of the late 1980s.
The al-Tuwaitha nuclear facility 15 miles southeast of Baghdad, contains 1.8 tons of low-grade enriched uranium and several tons of natural and depleted uranium. Officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency, whose inspectors were at the site Saturday, have said the materials are of such low radioactivity that they could not easily be turned into weapons. The uranium has been in storage at the facility since the end of the Gulf War.
Iraqi officials said the site at al-Tuwaitha was destroyed twice, first by the Israelis in 1981 during the Iran-Iraq war and a second time by the U.S.-led coalition that drove Iraqi forces out of Kuwait during the Gulf War.
Recent satellite photos show four new buildings at the site that the west claims could house new nuclear projects. The Iraqis deny the allegations and say the buildings are for environmental, medical and agricultural research.
In the first round of inspections in the 1990s, after Iraq's defeat in the Gulf War, the United Nations destroyed tons of Iraqi chemical and biological weapons and dismantled Iraq's nuclear weapons program. Recently published British and U.S. intelligence reports said new construction at old weapons sites and other activities suggest the Iraqis may have resumed making weapons of mass destruction.
The inspections are being conducted in conjunction with economic sanctions imposed on Iraq when it invaded Kuwait in 1990. The Iraqis have said they hope the inspectors would be finished and sanctions lifted within eight months. Under U.N. resolutions, the sanctions will only be removed after inspectors report full Iraqi cooperation in their disarmament work.
December 14, 2002
U.N. teams return to infectious diseases center; main Iraqi nuclear facility
by Sameer N. Yacoub, Associated Press Worldstream
U.N. inspectors returned to an infectious diseases center Saturday to examine rooms they were locked out of a day before, and a second team re-examined the main Iraqi nuclear center where nearly two tons of low-grade enriched uranium are in storage.
Iraqi officials said the inspection teams also went to a Scud missile facility that also had been used to make bomb casings for chemical weapons in the days before the end of the 1991 Gulf War.
Iraqi deputy-Prime Minister Tareq Aziz, opening the Al-Merbad Poetry Festival in Baghdad Saturday lashed out at the United States and Israel, saying they were bent on the destruction of Muslims.
"Imperialism as represented by the center of evil, America and its Zionist (Israeli) ally are waging an oppressive aggression that targets the existence of the Islamic community and its future," said Aziz who was dressed in a military uniform. "The imminent goal is Iraq and Palestine, the ultimate goal is the whole Islamic community." U.S. jets, meanwhile, attacked three air-defense installations Saturday morning south and east of Baghdad after Iraqi military jets violated the southern no-fly zone, the U.S. Central Command said reported on its Web site.
The command said the U.S. planes used "precision-guided weapons" against the three sites in response to Iraqi threats.
The military said it hit targets at Al Kut, 160 kilometers (100 miles) southeast of Baghdad, Qal'at Sukkar, 275 kilomters (170 miles) southeast of the capital and Al Amarah, 265 kilometers (165 miles)to the east-southeast.
U.S. and coalition aircraft have patrolled the southern and northern no-fly zones since the end of the 1991 Gulf War, which expelled Iraqi forces from Kuwait. The zones were established to prevent Saddam Hussein from attacking the Kurdish minority in the north of the country and the Shiites in the south.
Saturday's inspection of the Scud complex, the government-owned al-Nasr company 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of Baghdad, was a re-examination of the facility that also houses sophisticated machine tools that can, for example, help manufacture gas centrifuges. Such centrifuges are used to "enrich" uranium to bomb-grade level - a method favored by the Iraqis in their bomb program of the late 1980s.
The al-Tuwaitha nuclear facility 25 kilometers (15 miles) southeast of Baghdad, contains 1.8 tons of low-grade enriched uranium and several tons of natural and depleted uranium. Officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency, whose inspectors were at the site Saturday, have said the materials are of such low radioactivity that they could not easily be turned into weapons. The uranium has been in storage at the facility since the end of the Gulf War.
Iraqi officials said the site at al-Tuwaitha was destroyed twice, first by the Israelis in 1981 during the Iran-Iraq war and a second time by the U.S.-led coalition that drove Iraqi forces out of Kuwait during the Gulf War.
Recent satellite photos show four new buildings at the site which the west claims could house new nuclear projects. The Iraqis deny the allegations and say the buildings are for environmental, medical and agricultural research.
On Friday, teams carried out their first inspections on the Muslim day of prayer and were held up two hours at the newly declared site - the Communicable Disease Control Center - forcing inspectors to use their hot line to higher Iraqi authorities for the first time since returning to the country last month.
The U.N. team got access to the site but found several rooms locked and no one with keys. The Iraqis said the rooms were locked because Friday was a day off for doctors and other workers and no one else had keys. The locked rooms were sealed for the inspectors Saturday return. It was not clear what they found on the return visit.
Also Saturday, Iraqi officials said, the U.N. teams visited a medical storage facility and a hospital in the capital. A U.N. inspection official in New York said it appeared the team's inability to enter locked rooms at the infectious diseases center truly was a result of Friday being a day off. "I don't see this as being a significant problem," said Ewen Buchanan, spokesman for the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) in New York. Friday's inspections marked the first time the U.N. teams have been in the field on the Muslim day of prayer since returning to work Nov. 27 after a four-year break.
In Vienna, Austria, on Friday, the head of the U.N. nuclear control agency, Mohamed ElBaradei said his inspectors would need "something like a year" to prove or disprove Iraq's assertions that it no longer maintains a nuclear weapons program.
The larger U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) under Hans Blix, chief of the U.N. program, is searching for evidence of chemical or biological weapons and the means to deliver them. It was one of Blix's teams that returned Saturday to the infectious diseases center.
In the first round of inspections in the 1990s, after Iraq's defeat in the Gulf War, the United Nations destroyed tons of Iraqi chemical and biological weapons and dismantled Iraq's nuclear weapons program.
Recently published British and U.S. intelligence reports said new construction at old weapons sites and other activities suggest the Iraqis may have resumed making weapons of mass destruction.
The inspections are being conducted in conjunction with economic sanctions imposed on Iraq when it invaded Kuwait in 1990. The Iraqis have said they hope the inspectors would be finished and sanctions lifted within eight months. Under U.N. resolutions, the sanctions will only be removed after inspectors report full Iraqi cooperation in their disarmament work.
December 14, 2002
The Hidden Data in Iraq's Denials
by Jonathan B. Tucker, The New York Times
After reviewing Iraq's 12,000-page declaration of its weapons programs, American analysts have concluded that it contains major omissions, including a failure to explain the fate of 550 mustard gas shells and another 150 bombs containing biological agents that were unaccounted for in the late 1990's.
This concern is not new. The inspectors of the United Nations Special Commission, known as Unscom, who worked in Iraq from 1991 to 1998, were unable to confirm Baghdad's assertion that its entire stockpile of chemical and biological weapons had been destroyed in the early 1990's. As a result, hundreds of tons of toxic agents remain unaccounted for. On Dec. 8 Gen. Amir al-Saadi, a close adviser to Saddam Hussein, said that Iraq cannot provide any new evidence to prove that the missing weapons were destroyed because documents describing the production and destruction of the toxic agents were eliminated at the same time.
Given the omissions in the Iraqi declaration, how can the United Nations weapons inspectors verify Iraq's claims? The Unscom experience shows that inspections based on less than complete disclosures can still prove useful.
During the seven years of Unscom work, the Iraqi authorities, when confronted with evidence that contradicted their earlier statements, simply issued revisions that they claimed were "full, final, and complete." Yet each time, the United Nations inspectors found major gaps and discrepancies that required further explanation.
Nevertheless, the Iraqi declarations were useful as a point of departure and sometimes provided valuable leads. In one case, the Iraqis listed a biological factory called Al Hakam, which they claimed was producing animal feed supplement and a biological pesticide. The inspectors visited the site, which was unknown to Western intelligence, and found it suspicious.
Over four years of intensive investigation, Unscom obtained compelling circumstantial evidence that Al Hakam was a bioweapons production facility. The Iraqis denied that anthrax spores and other agents produced at Al Hakam had been loaded into weapons, but the defection in August 1995 of Gen. Hussein Kamel, the mastermind of the biowarfare program, enabled the inspectors to confirm this fact. As a result, Al Hakam was razed in 1996.
A key lesson of the inspections process during the 1990's was the need to take a systematic approach to investigating Iraq's weapons programs. This technique involved piecing together a mosaic of information from aerial photography, production records, visual inspection and sampling, confidential trade data from Western companies that had supplied dual-use materials and equipment to Iraq, extensive interviews with Iraqi scientists, intelligence supplied by United Nations member countries and Iraqi defectors and in-house analyses.
Over time, this multifaceted approach to collecting evidence made it difficult for Iraq to maintain false cover stories, enabling the inspectors to leverage their limited numbers and resources. For example, despite Iraq's persistent denials that it had produced biowarfare agents, Unscom inspectors learned from intelligence sources that Iraq had imported from Western suppliers 39 tons of culture media, a mixture of nutrients for growing bacteria in steel vats.
Using a "materials balance" technique, in which the amount of media known to have been consumed by Iraq was subtracted from the total amount imported, inspectors could not account for 17 tons. When confronted with this evidence, Iraqi officials claimed that the missing media had been distributed to hospitals in 1989 for diagnostic medical uses and had been destroyed in riots after the Persian Gulf war.
This story did not hold up. The types of imported media were not those most often used for medical purposes, the amount of media was vastly in excess of Iraq's legitimate needs and the material had been imported in large drums rather than the small packages normally used by hospital labs.
In the face of these discrepancies, the Iraqi cover story gradually fell apart. By October 1995, Iraq had admitted to having used the imported media to produce large stocks of biological agents, including 19,000 liters of concentrated botulinum toxin and 8,500 liters of concentrated anthrax spores.
The current team of United Nations inspectors should adopt a similar multifaceted approach in dealing with the omissions in Iraq's latest declaration, but they will need time -- several weeks or even months -- to build a case. Meanwhile, the burden is on Iraq to make the scientists and technicians involved in the purported destruction of weapons available for interrogation. http://www.nytimes.com
December 12, 2002
70 U.N. Arms Monitors Extend Scope of Searches Into the Iraqi Desert
by John F. Burns, The New York Times
Teams of United Nations weapons inspectors began their third week of surprise visits to Iraqi industrial and scientific sites today in a mood of growing confidence that they can counter doubts voiced by senior Bush administration officials about their work.
In the first week after they started work on Nov. 27, the inspectors made two or three site visits a day. They have now stepped up the pace, visiting eight sites today. On Tuesday, their busiest day so far, they went to 13. After initially rarely ranging more than 100 miles from Baghdad, and mostly much less, they have begun long-distance probes hundreds of miles into the Iraqi desert. From an initial group of 17 inspectors, there are now more than 70 experts in nuclear, biological and chemical warfare, as well as missile experts; by Christmas, this number is expected to rise to nearly 100.
Setting out early each morning, the inspectors set course for some of the 900 "declared" sites on their checklists, meaning sites where Iraq has conducted weapons work in the past, or has laboratories or plants with "dual use" capabilities that could be turned from civilian purposes to weapons-related work.
With foreign reporters following them on every inspection, the United Nations teams have covered a wide range of installations representing all the major weapons programs Iraq had under way in the 1990's, when its defeat in the Persian Gulf war led the Security Council to impose a wide-ranging ban on Iraq's possession or development of weapons of mass destruction.
Among these sites have been the principal centers of Iraqi work on nuclear weapons, on deadly biological toxins like botulinum and anthrax, and on chemical weapons like VX gas.
The scattered irregularities found so far -- mostly involving the unnotified transfer of equipment monitored by earlier groups of inspectors in the 1990's -- have almost all been quickly resolved. Iraqi officials and scientists have identified other sites to which the parts have been moved, allowing the inspectors to confirm, in most cases, that the equipment is at the new locations. The byword of United Nations officials who have briefed reporters, in Baghdad and by telephone from New York, has been caution, with the officials saying the inspectors, and experts outside Iraq, need time to determine whether there is any evidence that Iraq has resumed work on banned weapons programs, as the Bush administration has alleged.
"We haven't disclosed anything, but that doesn't mean that we haven't found any trace of evidence to suggest to our inspectors that there may be something" that indicates new Iraqi work on banned weapons, one United Nations official with access to inspectors' reports said. "It's just that we cannot tell you anything yet."
The deadline for an initial report to the Security Council by the chiefs of the two separate inspection teams is Jan. 25. That is 60 days from the start of work by the teams from the New York-based United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission -- or Unmovic -- responsible for checking biological, chemical and missile sites, and the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, which is charged with checking nuclear sites.
Yasuhiro Ueki, spokesman for the two teams in Baghdad, said this was likely to be the first occasion for public disclosure of findings, unless Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei -- the heads of the two inspection teams -- "feel they have something they need to say before that."
United Nations officials who have spoken to reporters about the inspections have been sensitive to criticisms from Washington.
These have followed on from the policy split of last summer, when hawks in the administration were deeply reluctant to enmesh American policy on Iraq with a resumption of United Nations weapons inspections. Since inspections started, some senior officials in Washington have implied that the program could quickly founder in a morass of Iraqi harassment and deceit, accompanied by United Nations indecisiveness, as happened in the 1990's.
The critical American officials have called for the new round of inspections to be rapidly intensified, and for the United Nations teams to use the full range of powers written into the tough new inspections mandate approved by the Security Council on Nov. 8.
A number of these powers, like the right to swoop down on sites across Iraq in helicopters and the power to fly Iraqi scientists and their families outside Iraq for questioning, have not been invoked so far. Others, like the right to "freeze" inspection sites and prevent movement of people or materials in or out during the inspections, have been imposed, as far as accompanying reporters have been able to determine, with a wide latitude for the Iraqis.
United Nations officials in Baghdad say their ability to surprise the Iraqis, and their need to, will come together in the weeks ahead as weapons experts complete their analysis of the 12,000-page Iraqi weapons declaration delivered last weekend, and as helicopters become available to the inspection teams.
So far, 34 days after the new weapons inspection mandate was approved by the Security Council, only one United Nations helicopter has reached Baghdad, a transfer from the United Nations administration in Kosovo.
Mr. Ueki said contracts for more helicopters, to total about six, were "in the final stage of the bidding process" with private companies that charter aircraft to the United Nations. He was unable to say when they would arrive.
An example of the handicaps facing the inspectors came on Tuesday, when a team of nuclear inspectors set out on a 240-mile trip across the desert to a phosphate complex at Al Qaim, on the Syrian border, where the Iraqis produced about 100 tons of uranium as a byproduct in the 1980's.
The desert journey of more than five hours would have allowed accompanying Iraqi officials to alert the complex by radio that an inspection was imminent. http://www.nytimes.com
December 12, 2002
Weapons evidence is lacking so far
by Vivienne Walt, USA Today
BAGHDAD, Iraq -- It was the first time weapons inspectors had entered one of Saddam Hussein's presidential palaces. Iraqis were jittery about giving them access.
Relenting, the Iraqi guards opened the gates, and the inspectors rushed in. Some headed for a kitchen, where they pulled open a refrigerator door. The inspectors grabbed some marmalade jars and peered into a box containing a mysterious sticky substance.
"What's this?" a U.N. staff member demanded. "Baklava," an Iraqi official said, referring to the honey-soaked Middle Eastern dessert. Last week's inspection at Al-Sajoud Palace was typical of the frustrations faced by inspectors as they near the end of their third week of work. The United Nations effort to locate any remaining weapons programs in Iraq will be time-consuming and possibly inconclusive, some experts say. Even after thorough inspections are conducted, the monitors may not find evidence that Baghdad is developing weapons of mass destruction, as the United States insists is happening.
"It's unlikely under the current circumstances that the inspectors will find anything that the Iraqis don't want them to find," says Gary Milhollin, director of the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control in Washington. "At some point, they will have to get fresh intelligence that leads them to somewhere."
The U.S. public also is skeptical that weapons inspectors will find anything incriminating. A USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll taken Monday and Tuesday found that of 460 Americans who said they believe Iraq has banned weapons, 73% said inspectors won't uncover them.
In the four years since the last inspections, Iraq has had plenty of time to cover up efforts to build or deploy weapons. Short of a defector willing to spill secrets, the inspectors may only be able to build a circumstantial case based on visits to factories and research centers. More inspectors arrived in Baghdad this week and began increasing the number of visits to sites. The first report is due to the Security Council Jan. 27.
What they uncover could trigger a war against Saddam. But without strong evidence that Iraq has continued to produce weapons of mass destruction, the United States risks losing the support of its allies. "If inspectors can't find any bad things, then I personally don't think Iraq really has them," said a European diplomat in Baghdad.
"We're caught in the middle of a much larger political game," says Hiro Ueki, a Japanese diplomat who serves as the Baghdad spokesman for the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission. "This is a delicate moment."
Officials hope to have 100 inspectors in Iraq by Christmas.
Most of the nearly 70 monitors in Iraq are scientists accustomed to long, quiet days in research labs. They say they need months to determine whether Saddam has hidden chemical or biological weapons or nuclear material, or still has long-range missiles capable of striking his neighbors.
Despite pressure from the Bush administration, inspectors insist their hunt will be painstaking and require patience.
"It will definitely be slow," says Demetrius Perricos, 67, a Greek scientist who led the first group of monitors when inspections resumed last month. They are scouring a country about double the size of Idaho in search of microscopic anthrax spores or mustard gas residue.
They also could drift for months in a gray area of "dual-use" manufacturing, factories that have civilian and military applications. One site that weapons inspectors visited last month housed a graphite plant and a former facility for testing missiles. "The dual sites are going to be the trickiest things to prove," says Judith Yaphe, an expert on the Iraqi military at the National Defense University in Washington. "It's very easy to cover up bad-use chemicals with chemicals with good use."
The scientists' methodical approach has frustrated the White House. U.S. officials say the inspectors will not be aggressive enough to avoid being hoodwinked by Iraq. They say Saddam is a master of deception who has hidden weapons and weapons components and stashed biological and chemical toxins in innocent-looking places.
Little information was retrieved during the last U.N. inspections that ended in December 1998, when Iraqis complained inspectors were spying for their Western foes and blocked them from visiting several key sites. The inspectors were withdrawn before U.S. and British bombing strikes on Iraq. Back then, the best intelligence came from scientists who had defected after the Gulf War in 1991 and others with intimate knowledge of Iraq's weapons programs.
This time, no new defectors have surfaced. The United Nations said this week that Iraq hasn't complied with a demand made two weeks ago for a list of scientists who are said to know about the weapons programs. Even if these experts are produced, it's not likely they would help the inspectors. One defector who returned to Baghdad in 1995 after giving information to the CIA was assassinated.
The White House says it will give inspectors new information that could help them in their search.
'We don't trust anything'
Inspectors chafe at the notion they are being duped by Baghdad. "We don't take anything at face value," says Mark Gwozdecky, spokesman for the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. "We don't trust anything. We verify."
This time, the inspectors are driving in circles before heading out of town, so Iraqi officials can't figure out their destination. They try to arrive at laboratories and military plants before Iraqis have time to guess the day's game plan and conceal any banned weapons.
The United Nations plans to dispatch about six helicopters that they hope will allow inspectors to move to sites quickly, before Baghdad can conduct a cleanup.
Many days, Iraqi officials traveling with the inspectors appear to radio ahead to the sites before the U.N. teams are scheduled to show up. Iraqi security officials seem to anticipate their arrival. "We assume that most places aren't secure. And that includes our cars," Ueki says.
Since an overheard conversation could tip off Iraqis about what the inspectors plan to do each day, scientists can't discuss their work in most public and private settings. "Let's just say we've learned ways of communicating," Ueki says with a smile. They go for walks when they want to talk to each other and sometimes pass notes among themselves when they fear listening devices.
Details of the day's inspection plan are known to only a few team members before the Jeeps leave the U.N. offices in a hotel on the edge of Baghdad. U.N. experts sweep every room and telephone used by the inspectors to find electronic listening devices that may have been planted by Iraqi officials. The inspectors' Baghdad home, the Al-Hyatt Tower Hotel, is off-limits to visitors and is guarded by Iraqi police.
Experts say the best hope for a breakthrough is for someone inside Saddam's weapons program to divulge where Iraq has hidden its banned arsenal. U.N. officials said they have a plan to help whistleblowers come forward. They would not provide details.
Inspectors had virtually stalled in their weapons hunt during the 1990s until Hussein Kamel, Saddam's son-in-law and the longtime head of Iraq's secret weapons program, fled the country in 1995 and spilled his secrets to the CIA. His information led inspectors to a chicken farm on the outskirts of Baghdad, where they discovered more than 500,000 documents and pieces of microfilm detailing weapons programs, including atomic weapons research.
Saddam persuaded Kamel to return to Baghdad to live with the president's daughter and grandchildren, saying he had forgiven his betrayal. Back in Baghdad, the Iraqi leader immediately sent men to kill Kamel at his home. After Kamel's murder, Iraqi scientists probably think twice about sharing their secrets with weapons inspectors. "If anyone thinks Iraqi scientists are going to flock to them (U.N. officials) they are really mistaken," Yaphe says.
IRAQI SITES VISTED BY UNITED NATIONS WEAPONS INSPECTORS
-- International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
-- United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC)
November 27: Al-Tahidi, Scientific research center; Previously linked to nuclear program.
November 27: Al-Rafah, Missil engine testing facility and graphite plant; Graphite can be used for pencils of missile batteries.
Novermber 28: Al-Dawrah, Foot and mouth disease vaccination laboratory; Biological weapons had been found and tagged by previous inspectors.
November 28: Dhu Al-Fiqar and Al-Nasr, Factories producing small-arms ammunition and heavy machinery; Factories also could make biological weapons.
November 30: Al-Qa Qaa, Missile facility involved in nuclear research; Inspectors removed previously installed air samplers
November 30: Al-Meelad, Electronic research company; Former Al-Furat centrifuge facility; once part of nuclear weapons program.
November 30: Am Al-Maarik, Tool manufacturing plant; Facility can support nuclear weapons development.
November 30: Balad Chemical Defense Battalion, Army post home to the Chemical Corps Directorate of the Iraqi Ministry of Defense; Provides military training for biological, chemical and radiological defense.
December 1: Khan Bani Saad, Agriculture ministry airfield; May have once tested a helicopter-mounted device for spraying chemical or biological weapons.
December 1: Ibn Fernas, Military industrial compound; Once linked to Iraq's uranium enrichment program.
December 2: Al-Karama, Engineering design and research and development facility; One of Iraq's principal missile development sites; equipment tagged during 1998 inspection was not there during recent inspection.
December 2: Bakuba, The alcoholic beverage factories; Suspected that Iraqis may have stored weapons there, but inspectors turned up nothing.
December 3: Sijood Palace, The first of Saddam Hussein's palaces to be inspected; Looked for records or documents relating to weapons of mass destruction.
December 4: Al-Muthanna, Military plant that once housed Iraq's chemical weapons program;
Found aging mustard gas shells, which had been identified by previous inspectors.
December 4: Al-Tuwaitha, Iraqi Atomic Energy Agency compound; Checked for changed made since 1998 inspection.
December 7: Al-Kudus, Military research center; Inspectors examined construction that began in September; nothing found.
December 7: Ash Shakyli, Warehouse had stored nuclear materials; Equipment and material to be checked against IAEA records.
December 8: State Establishment for Geological Survey, Government facility and associated Geo-Pilot plant; Previously involved in mapping and processing or deposits.
December 8: Al-Tariq, Chemical factory and research and development facility; Inspectors looked at previously tagged equipment.
December 9: Al-Tariq, Chemical factory; Previously tagged equipment was present.
December 9: Al-Tuwaitha, Compound run by Iraqi Atomic Energy Agency, houses nuclear materials; Inventoried nuclear materials, took swab and air samples and sampled for radiological materials.
December 9: Ash Shakyli, Warehouse complex stroring nuclear materials; Inspected buildings and sampled for radiological materials.
December 9: Al Qa Qaa, Missile factory involved in nuclear research; Inventoried known explosive materials and inspected buildings.
December 10: Abu Ghouraib, Saddam Center for biotechnology, and other biological sites; Reviewed activities since 1998 inspections.
December 10: Al-Furat, State-owned chemical company; Inspected plant for capacity to develop chemical weapons.
December 10: Al-Tuwaitha; Inventoried old nuclear materials; third visit to complex in a week.
December 10: Al-Qaem, Phosphate complex previously associated with producing uranium; Assessed current activities; verified status of destroyed equipment.
December 10: Al-Karama, Military Industrialization Committee locations; Reviewed activities since 1998 and checked previously known equipment for use.
December 10: Sumood 4, A site near the Al-Qa Qaa explosives plant; Checked for weapons-making capabilities.
December 11: Al-Karama, missile facility; Ongoing inspections.
December 11: Al-Tuwaitha; Checked for renewed work on nuclear weapons.
Decmeber 11: Al Razi, Research center for human and animal diseases; Verification of activities and equipment use.
Decmeber 11: Ibn Sina, Site of a uranium enrichment plant formerly known as Tamiya; Checked for current nuclear activities.
Decmeber 11: Saddam GE and Amir Factory, Armaments factory; Reviewed equipment and activities since 1998 inspections.
December 12, 2002
Inspectors fan out across Iraq
by Charles J. Hanley, Chicago Sun-Times
BAGHDAD, Iraq--A strengthened corps of UN inspectors broadened its scrutiny of Iraq's military-industrial complex Wednesday, probing deeper into a nuclear research center and a desert uranium mine and making a spot inspection of a new missile factory.
At one site where Iraq once sought to enrich uranium to nuclear-bomb quality, inspectors verified Wednesday that nuclear activities have not been revived, the UN inspection agency reported.
As the field teams began their third week of operation in Iraq, their analytical support staffs in New York and Vienna were studying Iraq's huge new arms declaration in search of still more sites to visit and questions to answer.
Meanwhile, in Qatar, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld signed a military accord with that nation for the improvement of an air base there that could be used to mount an attack against Iraq. "The agreement is something that will improve our mutual readiness and military capabilities" and raise living standards for troops based there, Rumsfeld said after completing the agreement with Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani.
In the coming months, UN officials hope to inspect hundreds of Iraqi industrial and research installations, many of them "dual-use" sites that could be devoted to either civilian or military use.
To help accomplish that, 28 additional inspectors flew to Baghdad on Tuesday, bolstering the UN operation to 70 inspectors, and UN technicians readied the first of eight helicopters expected to join the monitoring effort. Besides ferrying inspection teams, the helicopters will be used to take air samples and sweep areas with radioactivity sensors.
The United Nations hopes to have up to 100 inspectors at work by late December. The inspectors come from the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency and the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission. The UN inspectors specialize in chemical and biological weapons and missiles.
The inspections resumed Nov. 27, after a four-year gap, under a new UN Security Council resolution mandating that Iraq surrender any weapons of mass destruction--which it denies it has--and report on nuclear, biological and chemical research and production. That declaration, totaling 12,000 pages, was filed over the weekend.
December 12, 2002
UN weapons inspectors check out testing site, factory for missiles
by Lamia Radi, Agence France Presse
UN experts probed seven military and industrial sites as they started a third week of inspections in Iraq Thursday on the hunt for weapons of mass destruction.
An Iraqi official reported no incidents in the probes carried out across Iraq by teams of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Among the sites visited were a missile testing facility near Ramadi, 110 kilometers (66 miles) west of Baghdad, and the Nida General Company, at Zaafaraniya, 20 kilometers (12 miles) west of the capital.
Both the testing facility and factory were placed under long-term monitoring by the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM), the previous UN body tasked with dismantling Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs. The UN teams were checking to see if Iraq was secretly producing missiles that exceed 150 kilometers (90 miles), a limit set by UN Security Council at the end of the 1991 Gulf War.
According to UN reports, Nida was part of Iraq's program to produce Al-Hussein missiles with a range of 650 kilometers (390 miles), before Iraq was evicted in 1991 from its oil-rich neighbour Kuwait by a US-led coalition. Nida director general Khalil Jamil al-Neeimi said the factory was currently producing moulds and tools that could be of dual civilian and military use, but was not manufacturing any weapons.
The factory belonged to the Military Industrialisation Organisation and was bombed twice, in 1993 by the United States and in 1998, during the US-British blitz on Baghdad that marked the end of UNSCOM's operations in Iraq, he said.
The two-hour inspection "unfolded normally with a great deal of cooperation They (the inspectors) were very satisfied," he said. Journalists were admitted inside when the inspection ended, and shown moulds for jerricans being manufactured. The visits to the testing site and factory were the first to those facilities since UN experts resumed work in Iraq on November 25 after a four-year break.
UN biological warfare experts also visited the Arab Company for Antibiotics, in Suweirah, some 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of Baghdad, apparently to verify that it does not have dual-use equipment to produce deadly weapons. Iraqi sources said the company was created three years ago after UNSCOM left the country.
Besides the Nida factory, teams from the IAEA investigated three sites Thursday, an Iraqi official said. One of them was the vast Ibn Sina Company complex in Tarmiyah, 25 kilometers (15 miles) to the north of Baghdad. On Wednesday, inspectors first probed the chemical factory suspected by Britain to have been kitted out secretly to produce deadly weapons.
The other spots were the Mu'tasim factory, in Jurf al-Sakhr, some 35 kilometers (21 miles) south of Baghdad, and the Al-Rasheed site, the official said, giving no further details.
The same team of experts that inspected the Nida factory also checked the nearby Al-Khazen Electrical Design plant, an AFP photographer reported.
Meanwhile, Iraq's ruling Baath Party charged that US forces, who have poured into the Gulf to back up US threats to attack, intended to "occupy" the region indefinitely. "The presence of American bases in the region is not due to the war that the United States wants to wage against Iraq," said the party's Ath-Thawra daily after US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld signed a new military pact with Qatar.
"They are there to stay. These bases are there to occupy, plot, repress, spy and for sabotage," the party mouthpiece wrote under the headline: "The true American aims in the Gulf after the inauguration of a new base in Qatar".
Wednesday's deal formalized the 4,000-strong American presence at a massive air base outside Doha and further tightened the close military relationship between Qatar and the United States.
December 12, 2002
U.N. team verifies no revival of weapons activity at nuclear site
by Charles J. Hanley, The Associated Press
Nuclear inspectors have verified that an installation north of Baghdad where Iraq once sought to make atomic bombs shows no signs of new weapons work.
The report by the U.N. inspection agency came late Wednesday at the end of a day of extensive activity by U.N. weapons monitors, who paid unannounced visits to at least eight sites including a medical research center and a new missile factory.
The U.N. teams, in the third week of resumed inspections, headed out again Thursday on their daily missions. They went to a missile test side west of Baghdad, a defunct antibiotics plant and a metalworking plant, among other facilities, Iraqi Information Ministry officials said. The teams from the U.N. nuclear agency - the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna - have intensified their work this week, after receiving reinforcements Sunday that increased the number of nuclear inspectors to 27.
On that same day, Iraq's massive arms declaration was flown from Baghdad to New York and Vienna, where analysts are poring through its 12,000 pages in search of still more sites to visit and questions to answer.
The declaration was filed under a new U.N. Security Council resolution requiring Iraq to report on nuclear, biological, chemical and missile research and production. The resolution also mandates that Iraq surrender any weapons of mass destruction - which it denies it has. The U.S. government says it is sure the Baghdad government retains such weapons, and threatens war if Iraq fails, in Washington's view, to comply with U.N. disarmament demands.
The resolution also mandated the resumption of the inspections after a four-year gap. Before such monitoring ended in 1998 amid U.N.-Iraqi disputes, inspectors destroyed tons of Iraqi chemical and biological weapons and dismantled Iraq's program to try to build nuclear weapons.
In the late 1980s, as part of that weapons effort, scientists and engineers at an Iraqi nuclear center at Tarmiya, 25 miles north of Baghdad, sought to master a difficult technology - electronic magnetic isotope separation - to enrich uranium to fissionable levels usable in atomic bombs.
That effort stalled, and Iraq turned to another technology at another site, again unsuccessfully. Within two years of Iraq's defeat in the 1991 Gulf War, U.N. inspectors tracked down and destroyed buildings and equipment at the Tarmiya site, as well as at other nuclear facilities. Tarmiya remained under U.N. monitoring until 1998.
Returning after four years to the site - now known as the Ibn Sina Company - the monitors "inspected the new activities at the site and verified that no nuclear activities remain or have been initiated," the U.N. statement said.
The inspection agencies - the IAEA and the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, for chemical and biological weapons and missiles - generally have not reported on the results of their field missions. There was no explanation why it was done in this case.
In fact, a U.N. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, noted that plant managers and other Iraqis have frequently told reporters after inspections that the monitors found nothing indicating work on weapons of mass destruction. "But," he said, "that doesn't mean the inspectors have found nothing." He said "bits and pieces" of any evidence found would be collated over time.
Inspectors on Wednesday also continued their thorough review, started earlier in the week, of operations at al-Tuwaitha, Iraq's major nuclear research center.
In the 1980s, scientists at the site 15 miles southeast of Baghdad were key to Iraq's efforts to build nuclear weapons. Many of the complex's more than 100 buildings were destroyed in U.S. bombing during the 1991 Gulf War.
The U.N. office also reported that a team completed its inspection Wednesday of the remote al-Qaim uranium mining site and a nearby processing facility.
In the coming months, U.N. officials hope to inspect hundreds of Iraqi industrial and research installations, many of them "dual-use" sites whose products or equipment could be devoted to either civilian or military use.
December 11, 2002
New inspectors boost weapons searches
St. Petersburg Times
U.N. arms specialists ramped up their search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq Tuesday, augmenting their ranks to 70 inspectors and splitting into teams to conduct five simultaneous searches, including one of a remote uranium mine near the Syrian border.
The inspectors also have become more assertive in their field visits over the past few days, breaking into small groups, moving in several directions and questioning Iraqi officials with a seemingly greater intensity, according to witnesses and Iraqis in charge of facilities that have been searched. A helicopter that will give the inspectors more mobility and greater ability to conduct surprise searches has arrived in Baghdad and should be operating this week, U.N. officials said.
As the high-stakes inspections entered their third week, 28 specialists from the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, or UNMOVIC, arrived here Tuesday afternoon aboard a U.N. cargo plane, joining seven of their colleagues and 20 experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency who landed on Sunday. The IAEA and UNMOVIC, which are sharing inspection duties, had fielded 15 inspectors and two team leaders, who have since left, for the first two weeks of field visits. "We are deploying inspectors as fast as we can," said Hiro Ueki, a spokesman for the inspection operation.
The presence of 70 inspectors, and reports that more are on the way this week, appears to put the United Nations on track to meet its goal of having 80 to 100 inspectors in Iraq by Christmas.
The experts visited 11 sites Tuesday, bringing the total number visited since inspections resumed Nov. 27 to more than 30. Several sites visited over the past few days, including the Saddam Center for Biotechnology in Baghdad, visited Tuesday, haven't been examined by previous groups of inspectors.
Some of the sites, particularly the sprawling Tuwaitha nuclear installation, have required multiple visits. A team from the IAEA searched the heavily bombed facility, which stretches for several square miles and has scores of buildings, for the fourth time. They pursued a physical inventory of materials from Iraq's past nuclear program. Ueki said it probably would take two more days to complete the inventory.
Although the inspectors are working their way down a prearranged list of sites prepared by U.N. officials, Ueki said the contents of a voluminous arms declaration Iraq submitted over the weekend could shift the strategy. "After going through the declaration, they may make some adjustments to their inspection plans," he said.
Among the 11 sites visited by the inspectors Tuesday was the Qaim Phosphate Complex, 240 miles northwest of Baghdad. The facility produced a type of refined uranium ore called "yellow cake" from 1984 to 1990 that played an important role in Iraq's nuclear program, which officials here say ended after the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
The facility was bombed during the war. Iraqi officials insist it's no longer producing uranium. Ueki said a team of IAEA inspectors, which plans to continue its activities there today, was verifying the status of destroyed equipment and determining whether any uranium extraction activities have resumed. Preliminary analysis could come late next week
UNITED NATIONS - U.N. weapons inspectors said Tuesday that they expect to deliver a preliminary analysis of Iraq's recent weapons declaration late next week. Meantime, U.S. and other experts combed through the document looking to see if Saddam Hussein divulged all of his weapons programs.
At the White House, President Bush met Tuesday with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the leader of Turkey's new ruling political party, whose backing will be critical if Bush decides to use force to overthrow Hussein. Turkey borders Iraq to the north.
Bush and other U.S. officials promise to support Turkey's bid to join the European Union, and they lavished praise on Erdogan, who leads the Justice and Development Party. The group has its roots in Islamic parties now banned in Turkey.
"We join you side by side in your desire to become a member of the European Union," Bush said at an appearance with Erdogan.
At the United Nations, chief weapons inspector Hans Blix told members of the Security Council that he expected to be ready to give a "very preliminary assessment of the substance" of the declaration by Dec. 19.
December 11, 2002
UN inspectors search eight military, civilian sites
Agence France Presse
UN inspectors probed Wednesday eight civilian and military industrial sites in their search for suspected weapons of mass destruction, a UN spokesman said.
Teams of the UN Monitoring and Verification Commmission (UNMOVIC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspected sites related to Iraq's ballistic, nuclear, bacteriological and chemical capabilities.
"All the buildings" of the Al-Fatah factory, related to Iraq's missile program, "were inspected and the objective of the visit were sucessfully achieved," UN spokesman Hiro Ueki said. The factory, located in the northwest outskirts of Baghdad, commenced production of missile components in 1999, he added. Iraqi authorities declared it to the United Nations last October 1, he said.
UNMOVIC also inspected the Al Razi Research Center in Ameriya, 25 kilometers (15 miles) west of Baghdad, which produces "small amounts of diagnostic regents for a limited number of human and animal diseases," he said. "A full detailed inspection of all buildings was carried out to verify the (Iraqi) declaration contents, material, equipment and activities. The team completed the objective of the inspection," Ueki added.
In the nuclear site of Tuwaitha, 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of Baghdad, an IAEA team "completed inventorying nuclear materials left over from Iraq's previous nuclear programme," he said.
In Al-Qaim, 400 kilometers (250 miles) to the west of Baghdad, "a team has finished inspections of Iraq's capability to extract uranium from phosphates" that it began Tuesday, he said. "The uranium extraction plant was destroyed in 1991 and the site has been under IAEA monitoring ever since," he said.
UN inspectors also "verified that no nuclear activities remained or have been initiated" in the Ibn Sina Company, which was the site of a uranium enrichment plant destroyed in 1991. The factory is located in Tarmiya, 25 kilometers (15 miles) to the north of Baghdad.
The nearby Amil liquid nitrogen plant, which belongs to Ibn Sina Company, was inspected by the same team.
UN inspectors also searched two sites related to military industry 120 kilometers (72 miles) west of Baghdad "to review the disposition and use of dual-purpose machine-tools and equipment formerly known to the IAEA," said the spokesman.
December 11, 2002
UN weapons inspectors probe suspected chemical lab
by Hassan Jouini, Agence France Presse
UN inspectors probed Wednesday for the first time a chemical laboratory suspected by the British government to have been kitted out secretly to produce deadly weapons.
UN Monitoring and Verification Commission (UNMOVIC) experts poured inside the Ibn Sina Company in Tarmiyah, 25 kilometers (15 miles) to the north of Baghdad.
According to a British intelligence report, the site has been re-equipped so that it can support the production of chemical agents and precursors in addition to producing chemicals for Iraq's civil industry.
An Iraqi official told AFP five sites were being inspected Wednesday morning, including Ibn Sina. UNMOVIC and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have beefed up their presence to 70 inspectors after 28 more experts flew in Tuesday. "The majority of them is out today" on inspections, said the spokesman of the two UN bodies, Hiro Ueki.
The inspectors also went back for a fifth time to the vast Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center, 20 kilometers (12 miles) to the south of Baghdad. "It is a normal level of curiosity," Ueki said when asked why the inspectors have been so often to Tuwaitha, the heart of the Iraqi nuclear program until it was dismantled under IAEA supervision between 1991 and 1998.
Other teams re-inspected two ballistic facilities belonging to the Al-Karama complex, one in Baghdad's northern suburb of Al-Taji, and the second, called Al-Fatah, in Waziriya, a northern district of the capital. Both units produced components for missiles and have already been searched since November 25, when UN inspectors resumed work in Iraq after a four-year break.
The inspection of Al-Fatah facilities was carried out by 12 inspectors and lasted three hours and a half, according to AFP reporter. Colonel Kamel Abdul Kareem, from Iraq's military industrialisation organisation, told journalists the components produced in Al-Fatah were used for short-range al-Samud missiles. "They asked for the production programs and the map of the facility," he said.
According to a British government report released in September and based on intelligence sources, Iraq has worked to extend the range of the al-Samud to at least 200 kilometers (120 miles), in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 687, which sets the terms of the 1991 Gulf War ceasefire. The resolution prohibits Iraq from acquiring or producing missiles that have a range exceeding 150 kilometers (90 miles), which mainly applies on Scud missiles provided by the former Soviet Union and the locally-made Al-Hussein.
The previous UN body tasked with Iraq's disarmament, the Special Commission (UNSCOM), had asked Baghdad to account for two missing Scuds and seven Al-Hussein missiles. Al-Hussein is an Iraqi version of the Soviet-built Scud with a 650 kilometer (390 mile) range. The army of President Saddam Hussein fired more than 40 Scuds during the Gulf conflict on Israel and Saudi Arabia. UNSCOM also requested information on Iraq's capacity to make guidance and control systems, including gyroscopes, for Al-Hussein missiles.
UNSCOM fled Iraq in December 1998 hours before a US-British bombing blitz and was disbanded in 1999 to be replaced by UNMOVIC.
Meanwhile, another inspection team continued work at Al-Qaim, 400 kilometers (250 miles) to the west of Baghdad, to verify whether a uranium extraction unit had halted activities. The team went to Al-Qaim on Tuesday and stayed overnight. The site was bombed in the Gulf War and formally closed when UNSCOM started operations in 1991.
The inspectors suffered Wednesday morning a minor road accident, the first since November 25, as a one of their four-wheel drive vehicles lurched in to a car while speeding along with a UN convoy through the busy streets of Baghdad. "It was a fender-bender," said Ueki. He said the accident happened a few minutes after the team left the UN inspectors' headquarters in the Canal Hotel, around 8:30 am (0530 GMT).
Iraq repeated Wednesday that it was free of weapons of mass destruction, despite Washington's insistence to the contrary. "The United States is not and will not be able to prove that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction because Iraq hasn't such weapons," said the Iraqi representative at the United Nations, Mohamed Duri, quoted by the official news agency INA.
December 11, 2002
U.N. teams probe deeper into nuclear complex, confirm no nuclear revival at another site
by Charles J. Hanley, Associated Press Worldstream
A strengthened corps of U.N. inspectors broadened its scrutiny of Iraq's military-industrial complex on Wednesday, probing deeper into a nuclear research center and a desert uranium mine, and making a spot inspection of a new missile factory.
At one site where Iraq once sought to enrich uranium to nuclear-bomb quality, inspectors verified Wednesday that nuclear activities have not been revived, the U.N. inspection agency reported.
As the field teams began their third week of operation in Iraq, their analytical support staffs in New York and Vienna were studying Iraq's huge new arms declaration in search of still more sites to visit and questions to answer.
In the coming months, U.N. officials hope to inspect hundreds of Iraqi industrial and research installations, many of them "dual-use" sites whose products or equipment could be devoted to either civilian or military use. To help accomplish that, 28 new inspectors flew to Baghdad on Tuesday, bolstering the U.N. operation to 70 inspectors, and U.N. technicians readied the first of eight helicopters expected to join the monitoring effort. The helicopters will not only provide transportation; at times they may take air samples or sweep areas with radioactivity sensors.
The United Nations hopes to have up to 100 inspectors at work in the field each day by late December. They come from both the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, UNMOVIC, whose inspectors specialize in chemical and biological weapons and missiles.
The inspections resumed Nov. 27, after a four-year gap, under a new U.N. Security Council resolution mandating that Iraq surrender any weapons of mass destruction - which it denies it has - and report on nuclear, biological and chemical research and production. That declaration, totaling 12,000 pages, was filed over the weekend.
One of at least eight sites checked Wednesday was al-Tuwaitha, Iraq's major nuclear research center, where U.N. experts continued thorough inspections begun earlier in the week.
In the 1980s, scientists at Tuwaitha, 25 kilometers (15 miles) southeast of Baghdad, were key to Iraq's efforts to build nuclear weapons. Many of the complex's more than 100 buildings were destroyed in U.S. bombing during the 1991 Gulf War. The IAEA inspectors were checking for any signs of revived Iraqi interest in nuclear weaponry.
Inspectors were able on Wednesday to verify there is no such revived interest at another site, the Ibn Sina Company at Tarmiya, 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of Baghdad, the inspectors' Baghdad office reported. In the 1980s, Iraqi scientists and engineers at Tarmiya had sought unsuccessfully to master a technology - called electronic magnetic isotope separation - to enrich uranium to fissionable levels usable in atomic bombs.
The U.N. office also reported that a team that a day earlier traveled 400 kilometers (250 miles) west of Baghdad, to the desert near the Syrian border, completed its inspection Wednesday of the remote al-Qaim uranium mining site and a nearby processing facility.
Another team Wednesday drove to an industrial zone north of Baghdad to inspect a factory belonging to al-Karama, a company long involved in missile production. Under U.N. resolutions adopted after Iraq's defeat in the Gulf War, Iraq is forbidden to possess missiles with a range greater than 150 kilometers (90 miles).
The inspected factory, opened in 1999, was "declared" by Iraq in a periodic report two months ago, the U.N. inspection office said. It said the plant helps manufacture the guidance and control system for the new al-Samoud missile.
Recent U.S. and British intelligence reports contend Iraq is extending the range of the al-Samoud beyond the permitted limit. The inspectors presumably were checking that. In almost every case, the monitors have not reported specific findings after inspections.
"Iraqi officials have been telling the media the inspectors have found nothing," said a U.N. official, speaking on condition of anonymity. "But that doesn't mean the inspectors have found nothing." He said any "bits and pieces" of evidence found would be collated over time. The previous round of U.N. inspections in the 1990s led to destruction of tons of Iraqi chemical and biological weapons, and to dismantlement of Iraq's program to try to build atomic bombs. That monitoring regime broke down in 1998 amid U.N.-Iraqi disputes.
If the arms control teams ultimately report full Iraqi cooperation, U.N. resolutions call for the Security Council to consider lifting economic sanctions imposed on Iraq after it invaded Kuwait in 1990. If, on the other hand, Iraq is found in noncompliance, the council may consider military action against Iraq.
December 10, 2002
UN arms experts intensify Iraq inspections ranging far and wide
by Kamal Taha, Agence France Presse
UN weapons experts carried out five inspections on Tuesday ranging far and wide out of Baghdad for the first time since the hunt for banned arms resumed two weeks ago. "We have sent quite a few teams out there today," UN spokesman Hiro Ueki told AFP, adding that Tuesday was the busiest day so far. "But I can't tell you how many," he said of the five inspections which Iraqi sources and foreign correspondents reported.
More inspectors were due to arrive later Tuesday to swell their ranks towards 70 as the United Nations stepped up its field checks to test a key weapons inventory handed over by Iraq at the weekend. "We have a large number of UNMOVIC (UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission) arriving today, about 25," Ueki said.
A team of nuclear experts made the first long-range mission, travelling 400 kilometres (250 miles) to check installations once used to extract uranium, sources said. They went to Al Qaim on the border with Syria where uranium was worked before the 1991 Gulf War. The installations there were put under permanent monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which disbanded Iraq's nuclear programme between 1991 and 1998, when arms inspectors quit Baghdad. The sources however did not know what means of transport the team used to reach Al Qaim, in a region reputed for its phosphate mines.
All inspections since the new regime arrived in Iraq on November 25 had been carried out around Baghdad using four-wheel drive vehicles. But the inspectors have been awaiting the arrival of helicopters from their rear base in Cyprus.
Meanwhile, another IAEA team visisted Al Furat, 50 kilometres (30 miles) south of the capital where Iraq set up centrifuges which can be used to enrich uranium.
A third set of nuclear specialists returned for the third time to the Tuwaitha complex south of Baghdad, which before the Gulf war was the centre of Iraq's nuclear research. In 1981 Israeli warplanes destroyed a reactor under construction at the site.
UNMOVIC staff also inspected a laboratory near Baghdad which US and British intelligence agencies suspect has resumed production of prohibited substances. The Amariya lab in the Abu Ghraib suburb carried out research associated with Iraq's germ warfare programme before 1991. The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) said the stock-piling capacity at the laboratory had recently been increased beyond what would normally be required for civilian purposes.
Inspectors also returned to installations in Baghdad's Waziriya district which were checked last week for their role in building missile guidance systems.
The inspections stepped up a gear from Monday following the arrival Sunday night of 25 more experts in Baghdad. The reinforcements boosted the 17 inspectors who reached Baghdad on November 25 and began work two days later.
By the end of the month the United Nations intends to have some 100 inspectors deployed in Iraq, which on Sunday submitted a huge arms dossier to the world body in line with the stringent conditions of Security Council Resolution 1441.
Iraq's chief liaison with the UN arms experts, General Hossam Mohammad Amin, said he hoped the renewed checks on suspect sites would be completed by next August. "The work of the inspection teams in Iraq could last eight months if UNMOVIC and the IAEA keep their promises" to be objective and not play politics, Amin told the Al-Rafidain weekly, adding that he was satisfied with the work of the UN experts "up until now". "Calm and professionalism," he said of the inspectors, but added that they had "also interfered with surprise visits".
Iraq notably protested last week when the experts marched into a presidential palace normally reserved for state guests in Baghdad.
Amin said UNMOVIC chief Hans Blix and IAEA director Mohamed ElBaradei would return to Baghdad "in a month or two" for an update on the situation. The two men "could have a high-level meeting with Iraqi officials," he said, describing it as "useful and necessary". Amin reiterated that Iraq no longer possessed weapons of mass destruction and challenged the United States and Britain to prove otherwise. "We challenge them to reveal their supposed evidence," he said dismissing it as "lies and allegations".
December 10, 2002
Bush told to reveal all on Iraq
By Caroline Overington, Sydney Morning Herald
The United States is under intense international pressure to release the information it says it has about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. The Iraqi Government, the weapons inspectors in Baghdad and some members of the US Congress have all urged President George Bush to reveal what he says he knows.
The chairman of the US Senate intelligence committee, Bob Graham, compared the moment to the Cuban missile crisis, saying that, just as John F. Kennedy had come forward with information about Soviet missile sites in Cuba in 1962, Mr Bush needed to come forward with information about Iraq.
The Senate Democratic leader, Tom Daschle, said the US should "put our best evidence forward, especially if it's a question of Saddam Hussein again denying all of these assertions".
On Sunday Iraq gave United Nations weapons inspectors an 11,000-page declaration it says proves it does not have weapons of mass destruction. The document was delivered just as inspectors began publicly complaining that their search for weapons had been frustrated by Washington's refusal to tell them where to look. The Iraqi Government has apparently taken note of the strained relations between Washington and the inspectors, saying Mr Bush should put his cards on the table. Mr Bush has said it is not up to him to prove Iraq has prohibited weapons, but for Iraq to prove that it does not.
The US was reported angry at the UN's refusal to release a copy of the document to it or to any other member of the UN Security Council because it was worried it contained material that was too dangerous for broad consumption.
However, in a surprise decision the 15-member security council agreed late on Sunday to give the permanent members - the US, Russia, France, China and Britain - full access to the document. This means that Washington will not have to wait to begin its own analysis and translation of the document.
UN officials said the permanent members had the expertise to assess the risk of proliferation and other sensitive information. The Security Council must decide if there are any errors or omissions in the declaration that would place Iraq in breach of its obligation to disarm.
Iraq has also confirmed what the International Atomic Energy Agency has long suspected: that Saddam previously tried to make a nuclear bomb, but that it never reached the assembly stage. A senior adviser to Saddam, General Amir al-Saadi, said on Sunday that there was no guarantee Iraq would have succeeded in making the bomb.
"It is for others to judge; it is for the International Atomic Energy Agency to judge how close we were. If I tell you we were close, it is subjective, maybe [self-] promotional."
The Iraqi document is being analysed and translated at UN headquarters in New York and IAEA headquarters in Vienna.
The agency's director-general, Mohamed ElBaradei, said it would begin a "painstaking and systematic cross-checking of the information provided by Iraq against information the IAEA already has". The agency concluded in 1998 that Iraq had not achieved its aim of producing a nuclear weapon, but that its program was "well-funded, well-staffed and aimed at the production of a small arsenal of nuclear weapons". The agency removed all known weapons-grade nuclear material from Iraq and destroyed the country's nuclear weapons facilities and equipment.
December 9, 2002
UN reinforcements head for new inspection sites in Iraq
Agence France Presse
UN weapons inspections moved up a gear Monday with the arrival of 25 more experts who went straight to work as the new disarmament mission entered its third week in Iraq. "They are already participating in the inspections," UN spokesmen Hiro Ueki told AFP.
Teams of experts from the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) drove out of their Baghdad headquarters at 8:30 am (0530 GMT) heading for suspect sites. An UNMOVIC team returned to the sprawling complex at Fallujah, west of the capital, which they already visited Sunday.
The site played a key role in Iraq's chemical and biological arms programmes and was placed under permanent monitoring by the previous UN inspections regime UNSCOM which quit Baghdad in 1998.
IAEA experts meanwhile pulled up at the massive Tuwaitha complex, which includes some 100 buildings and was the centre of Iraq's disbanded nuclear research. Inspectors went to the same site last Wednesday.
The reinforcements arrived Sunday to bolster the 17 inspectors who reached Baghdad on November 25 and began work two days later. Ueki, who did reveal exactly how many of the new arrivals set off on inspection duty early Monday, said the number of sites checked, usually two per day, would "probably" now increase. Among the new batch are 21 IAEA staff and four from UNMOVIC on top of the 11 UNMOVIC and six IAEA employees already in Baghdad.
Ueki also said that no copies of Iraq's declaration of its military programmes had been kept by the UN inspectors in Iraq so there could be no details provided. "Don't hope for leaks from here," he said. The declaration in which Iraq says it has no longer has weapons of mass destruction reached UN headquarters in New York and the IAEA facility in Vienna on Sunday.
December 9, 2002
A top iraqi aide defies u.s. to find proof of weapons
by John F. Burns, The New York Times
An Iraqi general who is a top adviser to President Saddam Hussein challenged the United States and Britain today to produce any evidence they have that Iraq still has any weapons of mass destruction or programs to develop them.
But he strongly implied that American intelligence has been right in contending that Iraq came close to building at least one Nagasaki-sized atom bomb by 1991, at the time of the Persian Gulf war. Adopting a posture of punchy self-confidence and defiance, the Iraqi officer, Gen. Amir al-Saadi, said at a news conference that Iraq's 12,000-page declaration to the United Nations Security Council denying any banned weapons or programs was "entirely accurate."
The long declaration landed at United Nations offices in Vienna and New York, and arms experts immediately began the daunting job of determining whether the material reveals any illegal activity. With the comments of General Saadi, Mr. Hussein seems to be gambling that the American threat of war will prove to be a bluff.
The Bush administration has alerted the C.I.A. and national laboratories to be ready to go into overdrive, homing in on a few crucial Iraqi claims that the United States believes it can show to be false. But in private, administration officials concede that there is no single piece of dramatic intelligence that Iraq has continued to try to acquire nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
General Saadi implied that Mr. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, who have led the pressures for Iraq to meet its disarmament obligations or face attack, will be shown to have no hard evidence.
"We hope they will be investigating, that it will satisfy them, because it's entirely accurate, it's truthful," General Saadi said, referring to the Iraqi declaration. It was produced under a 30-day Security Council deadline and handed over at the United Nations headquarters here on Saturday night, a day ahead of the United Nations' deadline of today.
With the declaration's mass of top-secret technical detail and its history of Iraq's weapons programs going back to the 1980's, it is expected to establish a new base line in the confrontation between the United States and Iraq, helping to settle one way or another whether there will be war.
"If they have anything to the contrary, let them come up with it to the Security Council," General Saadi said. United Nations inspectors are in Iraq hunting down any secret weapons programs that may survive; they are swooping down every day on plants, research institutes and laboratories suspected of harboring banned programs. "Why play this game?" General Saadi asked.
The United Nations weapons inspectors continued their daily missions today, visiting a government mining and survey company in Baghdad that has past association with uranium processing, and a pesticide plant west of Baghdad. Pesticide production can be converted to production of chemical weapons.
The Iraqi officer spoke mostly in English, aiming mainly at television audiences in the United States, but he took care to offer his rebuke to the Bush administration in Arabic, too. "We don't understand the rush to judgment," he said. "A superpower should study and take its time in judging, especially as everyone is looking on it as it prepares for a huge military campaign, for an aggression against Iraq. It should behave wisely."
The Bush administration has said it intends to take time to analyze the documents, and no doubt will seize on the most startling of the admissions that came out of General Saadi's news conference: his suggestion of how far Iraq had progressed by 1991 toward acquiring a nuclear bomb.
All the work came to an end, he said, on Jan. 17, 1991, when the first President Bush ordered the bombing of Iraq to begin, five months after Iraq invaded Kuwait. On that topic, the 64-year-old general, a chemical engineer who rose to become Mr. Hussein's most trusted lieutenant in the secret weapons hierarchy, seemed proud, even regretful, that the gulf war with the United States, and the bombing of Iraq's most coveted nuclear sites, had disrupted its most ambitious weapons venture of all.
The general was asked how close Iraq had come to acquiring a nuclear weapon. Speaking in English acquired during doctoral studies at the University of London in the 1960's, he replied, "We haven't reached the final assembly of a bomb, nor tested it," and added, "If you follow the documents we have given, there is no guarantee that you would succeed."
Yet he danced close to the idea that considerable progress had been made. "We don't know, it's for others to judge, it's for the International Atomic Energy Agency to judge, how close we were," he said. "If I tell you we were close, it's subjective, maybe promotional."
That Iraq made headway toward acquiring a nuclear weapon, and its cloak-and-dagger stratagems, has been chronicled in detail by the international atomic agency and the Central Intelligence Agency. A C.I.A. report made public in October said Iraq began a crash program to build a bomb immediately after its invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, planning to divert highly enriched uranium from internationally safeguarded research reactors that France and the Soviet Union supplied.
A British government dossier published in September gave other details. It said that after the Kuwait occupation, Iraq planned to build a "gas-centrifuge cascade" to produce weapons-grade enriched uranium from a Soviet-made research reactor, also using fuel from the Osirak reactor that Israeli jets bombed in 1981. The British said the aim was to produce a bomb with a 20-kiloton yield, similar to the one dropped on Nagasaki in 1945.
But what made General Saadi's remarks the more stunning was that it was the first time any Iraqi official other than a defector had spoken so candidly, in public, about a project that would have made Iraq the Arab world's instant military superpower.
The general devoted much of the one-hour news conference to spelling out details of Iraq's nuclear program as described to the Security Council. He said that 2,081 pages of the declaration were devoted to nuclear weapons and that the declaration included sections on the two methods Iraq used to try to obtain a domestic supply of weapons-grade fuel, electromagnetic isotope separation and gas-centrifuge enrichment. He cited a passage on work to develop a "trigger" for the bomb and to achieve "the final shaping of the device." He explained, "In scientific jargon, 'device' means the bomb."
General Saadi seemed well chosen for the role he played today. He is also one of the Iraqis most trusted by Mr. Hussein, whom he now serves with the title of presidential adviser. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of the secret weapons programs and how far advanced they were -- in nuclear weapons, in deadly chemical and biological agents that were in the process of being "weaponized" and packed into bombs and missile warheads, and in missiles that were rapidly advancing to the stage where they could have achieved ranges of as much as 1,850 miles.
In the mid-1990's, when the crisis over Iraq's attempts to hide its weapons programs from United Nations inspections peaked, he was the official heading the Military Industrialization Commission, in overall charge of all the clandestine programs. In that position, he clashed frequently with the international weapons inspectors, as Iraqi denials that it had any banned programs, and the repertoire of harassment and obstruction faced by the inspectors, were swept away by United Nations discoveries of projects Baghdad had disclaimed.
The breakthrough came in 1995, when the military industrialization minister, Gen. Hussein Kamel, who was Mr. Hussein's son-in-law and General Saadi's immediate boss, defected to Jordan and, in debriefing sessions with C.I.A. experts, laid out a blueprint of the secret programs. General Kamel was later lured back to Baghdad and killed in a shootout at his sister's home.
General Saadi's remarks at the news conference were peppered with frustration at the work imposed on Iraq in compiling its dossier, and the threats made by the United States if it made a single mistake in accounting for its banned programs.
The general said the requirement that Iraq account for all so-called dual use programs and materials, meaning civilian enterprises that use processes and resources similar to the weapons projects, meant that Iraq had to list in the declaration thousands of undertakings that had nothing to do with weapons, like canneries, refineries, dairies and fertilizer factories.
"We are not even allowed one inaccuracy in this resolution," he said. "It's a draconian resolution."
Reporters focused many of their questions on attempts to get General Saadi to say whether the declaration contained any new disclosures. They inquired about any banned weapons or weapons programs that Iraq has not previously admitted to the United Nations inspectors, whether from 1991 to 1998, when the inspections regime collapsed in the face of Iraqi obstruction, or after 1998.
Iraq might have tried to avoid war by admitting it had some secret programs until recently, but had scrapped them all. That might have allowed Iraq to square its insistence in recent weeks that it has no secret programs with whatever fresh intelligence evidence the United States and Britain can bring forward.
General Saadi rejected that route, at least until an American television reporter posed the question about new programs for the third or fourth time. "I recommend that you read the declaration," the general said, apparently sarcastically, because the declaration will not be made public for some days, if then. "Is there new evidence?" he asked. "I'm not going to answer that."
Despite American claims, the general insisted that biological weapons programs "never existed after 1991." Yet later in the 1990's, United Nations inspectors uncovered an animal vaccine plant that had been diverted to producing botulinum.
He was similarly insistent about Iraq's production of VX gas, another deadly program uncovered by the inspectors in the 1990's. Of that program, he said, "nothing still exists."
Weapons inspectors hoped the declaration would settle what happened to 600 tons of "precurs," materials Iraq had and could use in the production of VX gas. Weapons experts have said that much material would be enough to produce enough VX gas to kill the entire world population.
December 9, 2002
UN weapons inspections: an overview
UN inspectors are again working in Iraq - but, given the failure of previous efforts to gauge Saddam Hussein's weapons capabilities, what are their chances of success this time around? Simon Jeffery and Philip Pank explain
What are weapons inspection teams?
Weapons inspection teams were set up in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf war with a remit to destroy Iraq's nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) weapons arsenal, its ballistic missiles with a range of more than 150km and its capability to manufacture any of these in the future.
The Gulf war allies, who did not want to occupy Iraq after the war, feared that leaving Saddam Hussein's arsenal intact would maintain Iraqi military dominance in the region. President Saddam had built up stocks of chemical weapons prior to the Gulf war and, more importantly, had used them. Chemical weapons killed an estimated 20,000 people in the Iran-Iraq war and 5,000 Iraqi Kurds were murdered by mustard gas and the nerve agent tabun at Halabja in March 1988. Iraq also fired missiles at Saudi Arabia and Israel during the 1991 war.
That conflict was brought to an end under UN resolution 687. The ceasefire agreement of April 1991 also established a UN special commission, Unscom, whose role it was to dismantle the non-nuclear arsenal and to assist the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in dismantling Iraq's nuclear weapons programme. Additional responsibilities included preventing so-called "dual use" exports with NBC or ballistic missile potential from reaching Iraq.
Unscom was charged with monitoring Iraq's compliance with the UN resolution. Sanctions were imposed until such a time when the inspectors could certify that all NBC programmes and their component agents and equipment had been destroyed. The sanctions continue to this day.
What happened to Unscom?
In December 1998, Unscom pulled out of Iraq amid complaints of obstruction by Iraq. Meanwhile, Baghdad claimed that the body was little more than a front for US spies (with some justification; the presence of CIA agents was later confirmed by the US, UN and former inspectors). It left ahead of Operation Desert Fox, 70 hours of US-British airstrikes designed to punish Iraq for failing to cooperate with the inspectors.
Unscom was disbanded and replaced in December 1999 by the UN monitoring, verification and inspection commission (Unmovic) funded by limited sales of Iraqi oil. Resolution 1284, which set up Unmovic, specified that if Iraq cooperated with the new inspection team for 120 days, sanctions would be suspended and then lifted. Iraq rejected the plan as a "criminal resolution" that would "transform Iraq into a protectorate governed from outside with Iraqi money".
So had the inspectors failed?
Prior to their departure, the inspection teams had destroyed or made unusable 48 long range missiles, 14 conventional missile warheads, 30 chemical warheads, "supergun" components, close to 40,000 chemical munitions, 690 tonnes of chemical weapons agents and the al-Hakam biological weapons plant. It had discovered evidence of a nuclear programme that was more advanced than previously expected.
Some inspectors suspected that Iraq's NBC programmes remained intact. However, the former Unscom inspector, Scott Ritter, insisted that Iraq was left with no capability to resume NBC programmes or weaponise any hidden stocks. The Bush administration refuses to accept this, but with no reliable monitoring since 1998, there is no way of knowing if Iraq still has weapons of mass destruction.
What is happening now?
On November 18, a team of about 30 weapons inspectors, led by the chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, and the director of the IAEA, Mohammed el-Baradei, returned to Baghdad to begin Unmovic's work.
They will carry sensors capable of detecting nuclear material as well as chemical and biological agents, and their findings could determine whether or not Iraq will face another US military onslaught.
Under Resolution 1441, the UN has given inspectors the right to go anywhere at any time and warned Iraq of the "serious consequences" it will face if it does not cooperate. The teams must report back to the security council on January 26 and inform it of their progress.
What is Iraq's response?
It has allowed the inspectors to carry out their work and submitted a 12,000-page dossier detailing military programmes and so called "dual-purpose capabilities" - civilian projects that could have a military application. When fully analysed, it will allow the inspectors to make fresh searches for banned weapons. However any perceived failure by Iraq to make an honest declaration could be seized upon by the US and its allies as a trigger for war.
Unmovic and the IAEA hope that the dossier will tell them what happened to Iraqi weapons that were not found in previous inspections, as well as explaining new developments since 1998 that have been highlighted by US and British intelligence.
What was Iraq's previous record of compliance?
Not good. Unscom was forced out of Iraq in 1992, when mobs attacked the weapons inspectors. They did return, but were denied access to various buildings and in 1997 Iraq expelled all US inspectors. A compromise was negotiated, the inspectors returned and were again barred from certain sites.
The then US president, Bill Clinton, warned he would carry out a military attack on Iraq. A diplomatic struggle to avert war ultimately failed, amid claims that Iraq was holding information back from the UN and allegations backed by Unscom scientists that it had weaponised VX nerve gas - something Baghdad had always denied. In October 1998 Iraq ceased all cooperation with Unscom. It resumed it in November but in December the bombing began.
For its part Iraq claimed Unscom was full of spies. Mr Ritter told BBC Panorama in 1999 that "the US killed Unscom" and had hijacked its listening equipment for various uses - including choosing bombing targets for Desert Fox - though these allegations were denied by the Unscom chief, Richard Butler.
Is Iraq likely to comply this time?
Many military and political analysts predict that President Bush will attack Iraq no matter what the latest wave of inspections uncovers, and President Saddam has so far cooperated with the UN in order, perhaps, to avoid a confrontation he would almost certainly lose.
Mr Bush has said he is committed to "regime change", but recently qualified that by saying that if Iraq abandoned NBC programmes it would signify that the regime had changed - so opening up the possibility of a peaceful resolution to the crisis. But whether this remains the true aim of the White House - or a ploy to bring allies on board - remains to be seen The formal UN position remains that sanctions can be lifted if Iraq complies with all UN resolutions.
December 5, 2002
Inspecting Iraq: No trouble yet
by Scott Peterson, The Christian Science Monitor
UN inspectors find nothing new at an old chemical weapons plant and a nuclear facility.
United Nations weapons inspectors examined what was once Iraq's largest chemical- weapons facility and a nuclear complex Wednesday - further further Iraq's willingness to permit unfettered access. But after a week of inspections, including visits to 20 sites, both Baghdad and Washington are finding different reasons to question the seriousness of the effort.
Iraq Wednesday accused UN teams of mounting a "show" inspection of a presidential palace on Tuesday, noting that a brief UN visit without gas masks and detection gear was not credible. "Unnecessary" and "unjustified" is how Gen. Hossam Mohammed Amin characterized the search of al-Sajoud Palace. President Bush described Iraqi cooperation Monday as "not encouraging."
UN officials reply that it's too soon for either side to be drawing such conclusions. Only 17 inspectors are working in Iraq. UN facilities here are in disrepair, lab equipment is still being shipped in, and another 80 inspectors aren't expected to arrive until the end of December. Most inspection visits have been to old sites previously surveyed in the 1990s.
Wednesday, the creaking gates of the vast al-Muthanna plant - which once produced the bulk of Iraq's mustard gas. as well as sarin and VX nerve agents - swung wide open as the UN inspectors' convoy arrived. With the prospect of war or peace possibly hinging on the turn of a single lock, Iraq has so far shown an unprecedented willingness to give UN inspectors access to any location. That alone, say Western officials, gives Iraq a winning edge in the "public relations battle."
But they are skeptical that Iraq's policy of openness will continue, or that Baghdad will come clean in a full declaration of its weapons of mass destruction and dual-use capabilities that is due by Sunday. Iraqi officials suggest that it will be thousands of pages long - providing many new sites for inspectors to verify. Iraq declares that it no longer harbors any proscribed weapons
"The Iraqis would have been very obtuse to obstruct the inspections in the first week, though there have already been a couple wrinkles," says a senior Western diplomat. "The declaration is going to be difficult to get right, since they say they have nothing. Admitting they were lying will actually be compliance."
At the vast chemical facility in the desert Wednesday, inspectors checked off items that had been logged by their predecessors more than four years ago: rows of large rusted vats filled with concrete, or with holes carved out with a blowtorch, all with faded UN number tags. The site was bombed by US aircraft in the 1991 Gulf War. A recent Iraqi report said the UN teams in the late 1990s had destroyed 38,500 artillery shells and other chemical-filled weapons, almost 520,000 gallons of liquid material, 150 pieces of equipment used to make chemical weapons, and four production facilities.
But a rotting gas mask near the entrance gate still spoke of the original purpose of the facility, and inside one building were crushed aluminum aerial bombs - the same ones that can be seen to this day in the Kurdish city of Halabja, where Baghdad's gas killed 5,000 Iraqi Kurds in 1988.
A crane was ordered in to remove shipping containers blocking some buildings, so inspectors could poke around. "Nothing was wrong," says Raad Ali Manhal, the Iraqi liaison to the inspectors at the site. "Everything was all right."
A second UN team visited the al-Tuwaitha nuclear complex south of Baghdad to check on new construction and other changes since the last inspection in 1998.
As UN inspections gather momentum, a broader question, say analysts, is what role the presence of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) play in underpinning the authoritarian regime of Saddam Hussein.
The answer may get to the heart of how Iraq weighs the threat of an American military invasion against the risks - in terms of showing weakness at home and in the region, and exposing Mr. Hussein's own security apparatus - of giving up all WMD ambitions.
"It's part of the myth - these weapons are central to the image the regime portrays of itself," says the senior diplomat. "[Hussein] put the responsibility of hiding WMD with the people responsible for his security - a pillar of the regime - so any scrutiny of those organizations are fundamentally dangerous [for Hussein's rule]."
Since UN inspections began last Wednesday, after a four-year hiatus, teams have seen just a handful of the 1,000 or so suspect sites on their list.
There was one delay of less than 10 minutes at the presidential gates on Tuesday; and some dual-use equipment tagged by UN teams at another site in the late 1990s was missing, and remains unaccounted for. But Iraq on Monday admitted that it had illegally tried to import specialty aluminum tubing - for peaceful industrial purposes, it said - that the US believes was destined for a clandestine nuclear program.
The inspections to date are part of an expected pregame warmup as the Iraqis and UN teams take the measure of each other, says Olivia Bosch, a former weapons inspector and arms control expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.
So far, the new inspections hardly resemble the sometimes-threatening confrontations that marked UN inspections in the 1990s, when Iraq sought to conceal much of its WMD program. If it wants to, say analysts, Iraq could pull together its declaration list - in just two days. "[Iraq's] past performance is not necessarily an indication of future action," says Ms. Bosch.
UN Security Council resolutions and the White House make clear that cat-and-mouse games won't be tolerated this time. It is up to the Iraqis to demonstrate their compliance by detailing materials that remain unaccounted for - or any new WMD progress in any field - and not up to the inspectors to turn over every stone in their hunt.
"I would expect the Iraqis to be very forthcoming. They already made some statements about illegally procuring the aluminum tubes - this is a welcome step," Bosch says. Iraqi officials said the tubes were for missiles, not nuclear weapons. "This time around there has to be a new way of thinking, on all sides."
One measure of that thinking is the fact that Iraq now allows Western journalists more freedom. They are normally strictly controlled and almost never allowed to visit such "closed military zones" as the sprawling 14-square mile Muthanna chemical facility.
During the five-hour inspection, herds of camels milled around the decrepit front gate of Muthanna, with its peeling paint and guards' blankets hung up on a barbed wire fence. A white UN was vehicle parked at the entrance to prevent any Iraqi workers from leaving.
"We are totally confident, otherwise you wouldn't be able to go [to the facilities]," a senior Iraqi official says. "Nothing is left in Iraq. We didn't use them when we had them in 1991, and we don't have the ability to rebuild. The CIA and the Mossad [Israel's spy agency], they know it."
December 05, 2002
UN team finds only ruins at nerve gas site
by David Blair, The Daily Telegraph (London)
UNITED NATIONS arms inspectors yesterday raided a sinister installation deep in the Iraqi desert where Saddam Hussein's chemical weapons programme began and the deadly gases he used against his enemies were produced.
Ten inspectors paid a snap visit to the al-Muthanna chemical plant, 45 miles north west of Baghdad. This vast complex, covering about 10 square miles, operated under the front name of the State Establishment for Pesticide Production when it was making at least 4,000 tons of nerve gas agents every year.
Allied air raids damaged al-Muthanna in 1991 and UN experts destroyed it in 1994. When the five vehicles from Unmovic, the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, reached al-Muthanna at 10am the inspectors were seeking to ensure that it had not been reopened. Gaping holes had been torn in the perimeter fence, indicating the site had fallen into disuse. Only four bewildered soldiers, who admitted the UN team, stood guard.
The inspectors blocked the entrance gate with a white Landcruiser to prevent the Iraqis from removing any evidence. They left after five hours, making no comment. Afterwards, journalists were allowed to enter. Beyond the gates lay an immense open area criss-crossed with trenches, bunkers and wrecked buildings. One had been pulverised by a bomb. Inside the main compound were six squat, identical buildings in two rows, once used as storage areas in Saddam's chemical weapons programme.
Raad Manhal, the site director, said the inspectors checked every building. "They have copied documents, checked labels. Nothing was wrong, everything was OK. Everything is the same as when the inspectors were last here." Mr Manhal stood beside the shabby, windowless buildings where the mustard and sarin gases used against Iranian soldiers and Kurdish civilians had been produced.
When Saddam began his quest for chemical weapons in the late 1970s under the codename "Project 922" the first research occurred in al-Muthanna. By 1983 the plant was fully operational. The British Government named al-Muthanna as the "main chemical agent production facility". But the project seems to have been disabled successfully. A row of storage tanks filled with concrete and rendered useless showed the results of the last inspection. Every building was stripped bare and strewn with debris.
Large warehouses had been sealed with heavy cargo crates placed against their entrances. In one corner lay nine artillery shells, perhaps designed for chemical warheads, defused, rusting and harmless. Critics of the inspections say Saddam will have ensured that nothing suspicious takes place in well-known installations such as al-Muthanna.
The American administration wants Unmovic to stop revisiting sites that were singled out in the 1990s and search new locations. But Hans Blix, Unmovic's head, has chosen to begin his work by ensuring that Iraq has not reopened crucial facilities dealt with by earlier inspectors. Once this has been established and the number of UN arms experts in Iraq has grown above the present 17 he will start on new sites.
Another team of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency visited the al-Tuwaitha nuclear plant 12 miles south of Baghdad. This once housed a nuclear reactor which was supplied by France in 1975 and destroyed in an Israeli air raid in 1981. The inspectors left after five hours. The installation appeared not to have been rebuilt.
Saddam is playing for time by making as many concessions as possible, though last night his vice-president, Taha Yassin Ramadan, accused the inspectors of being US and Israeli spies. "The inspectors have come to provide better circumstances and more precise information for a coming aggression," he said. "From day one, their foremost work was spying for the CIA and Mossad together."
Their inspection of a presidential palace in Baghdad on Tuesday amounted to provocation. "They were looking for a pretext so that we would tell them not to go in and they would say that this is a material breach of UN resolution 1441," he said. The UN teams must visit at least 700 sites and Saddam plans to let them get on with it, hoping that their task will take years.
December 04, 2002
U.N. Chief Challenges Bush's Iraq Assessment; Search Teams Gain Access, Annan Says
by Colum Lynch and Mike Allen, The Washington Post
U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan today challenged the Bush administration's downbeat assessment of weapons inspections underway in Iraq, saying that Iraqi "cooperation seems to be good" following the inspectors' first week of work.
Annan said it is too early to make a conclusive judgment regarding Iraq's commitment to disarm, but added he was pleased the inspectors have had no trouble gaining access to all the sites they targeted, including one of eight presidential palace compounds they visited today. He urged the government of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to continue to cooperate with the inspection teams.
"It's only been a week and obviously the cooperation seems to be good, but this is not a one-week wonder," Annan said. "They have to sustain the cooperation and the effort and perform." The secretary general's comments posed a stark contrast to statements by President Bush and other senior U.S. officials, who have offered a much more pessimistic assessment of the inspections so far. They pointed to a growing tug of war between the Bush administration and the United Nations over how to assess Iraqi compliance with U.N. disarmament demands in the run-up to this weekend's deadline for an Iraqi declaration on its weapons and missile development programs.
In a sign of the continuing divisions within the administration over Iraq policy, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell painted a far different picture. Speaking to reporters on a flight to Bogota, Colombia, Powell said the inspections "are off to a pretty good start," though he cautioned that much of the work so far has involved collecting baseline data and checking equipment.
Bush expressed mounting skepticism today about the likelihood that the inspections would stave off U.S. military action against Iraq, twice telling audiences in Louisiana that he will not wait out a prolonged game of "hide and seek."
Bush and other U.S. officials began a campaign on Monday to deflect attention from the daily comings and goings of the inspectors from sites in Iraq and toward what the administration says is the fundamental issue: Iraq's compliance with demands that it give up any chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons programs, and long-range missile systems.
"The issue is not the inspectors," Bush said today in Shreveport, La. "The issue is whether or not Mr. Saddam Hussein will disarm like he said he would. We're not interested in hide and seek in Iraq. The fundamental question is . . . will he disarm? The choice is his. And if he does not disarm, the United States of America will lead a coalition and disarm him in the name of peace."
A senior administration official said that first, Bush may push for a more aggressive approach to inspections, possibly including such enhancements as a much larger force, simultaneous inspections of several sites, and multiple inspections each day.
White House officials dismissed Annan's more optimistic assessment of Iraqi cooperation. "It's too soon to say with any certainty, from the president's point of view," spokesman Ari Fleischer said. "But the overall picture, the president is not encouraged."
Iraq's U.N. ambassador, Mohammed Douri, continued to maintain that Iraq has destroyed all its weapons of mass destruction and that it has nothing to hide. "We declared everything and destroyed everything, so we have nothing," he said.
"We are cooperating with UNMOVIC in a good way." Douri added, referring to the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, which is conducting the inspections along with the International Atomic Energy Agency.
In Baghdad, a senior Iraqi official told reporters that Iraq would hand over the declaration of its biological, chemical and nuclear weapons programs on Saturday -- a day ahead of the Dec. 8 deadline set out in U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441, adopted unanimously by the 15-member body on Nov. 8.
Bush made it clear that he does not believe the statements by Hussein and other Iraqi officials that they are not hiding any weapons. "He says he won't have weapons of mass destruction; he's got them," Bush said in Shreveport. Later in New Orleans, Bush added, "He's a man who has got terrorist ties, a man who helps train terrorists. He's a threat and he's a danger."
On Monday, the inspectors searched a Baghdad missile design plant that made guidance and control systems for Scud missiles that Iraq used during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. The inspectors wanted to ensure that the installation was not involved in producing missiles capable of ranges longer than 93 miles, which are banned under earlier U.N. resolutions.
During their six-hour search, however, the inspectors discovered that several monitoring cameras and some of the equipment on which they had placed identification tags no longer were at the site, now called the Karama Co.
Iraq's Foreign Ministry said today that some of the cameras and other equipment were destroyed when the United States bombed the site in 1998. The ministry statement said the other equipment sought by the inspectors had been moved to the offices of Iraq's National Monitoring Directorate, a government agency that acts as a liaison to the inspectors.
The ministry said it had informed the U.N. inspections commission of the movement of the equipment in a meeting in Vienna in October, when Iraqi officials handed over large documents about the country's weapons-making equipment.
"The majority of the cameras were destroyed during the aggression and some parts of the monitoring system that weren't destroyed were transferred to the National Monitoring Directorate center for protection," the statement said. "They exist there now."
U.N. officials said today they did not believe the movement was a cause for immediate concern, noting that at a veterinary medicine plant visited last week, the inspectors were able to trace a fermentation unit at first thought to be missing.
"If it were to be moved for some illicit purpose, then of course it would be more serious," Hans Blix, the chief U.N. weapons inspector, told reporters in New York. "But in the first case there was a fermenter which had been moved, and they showed where it was. And in other cases I hope that there are good explanations, but this has to be found out."
The Bush administration, meanwhile, sought to postpone a vote for the second time in nine days on a resolution that would extend Iraq's authority to export oil for the next six months. John D. Negroponte, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, asked the Security Council for a two-week delay in order to persuade council members to add about 40 items to a list of items that would require U.N. approval before they could be imported by Iraq. Iraq is allowed to sell oil under U.N. supervision to buy food and medicine, and to rebuild the country's battered infrastructure. The Security Council typically renews the mandate for the oil-for-food program every six months, but the United States has insisted that the council first place new restrictions on the import of such items as atropine, which is used to treat medical conditions but can also be used as an antidote for nerve agents.
The latest dispute in the Security Council is expected to reopen a recently settled battle over what Iraq is allowed to import. Following several months of acrimonious negotiations, the council agreed in May to approve a 300-page list of items that required Security Council approval. But with the prospect of war in Iraq, the Pentagon is concerned that Iraq will import medicines and products that can be used to inoculate Iraqi soldiers from chemical agents or to interfere with U.S. communications equipment.
December 04, 2002
Doors open for UN inspectors as they pay a visit to Saddam's inner sanctum
by David Blair, The Daily Telegraph (London)
RAYS of light from a golden chandelier bounced off the spacious foyer's marble walls. The doors of the palace were studded with Saddam Hussein's presidential crest and embroidered with his name in blue Arabic script.
Yet the Iraqi soldiers guarding Sijood palace in Baghdad gathered in a silent huddle yesterday. Two mud-spattered Landcruisers from the United Nations had effectively hijacked one of Saddam's inner sanctums by drawing up on either side of an imposing gatehouse, carefully positioning themselves to block anyone entering or leaving. Fourteen UN weapons experts entered Sijood palace and conducted the most crucial inspection since their return to Iraq. By arriving at the palace gates shortly before 9am, the inspectors were carrying out the first key test of Saddam's willingness to co-operate.
When Saddam declared eight "presidential sites", including Sijood palace, off-limits to weapons experts in 1998 it ended the UN's last bid to disarm Iraq and provoked four days of American and British air strikes.
If the joint team from the International Atomic Energy Agency and the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (Unmovic) had been denied entry yesterday, America and Britain might well have viewed this as deliberate obstruction and grounds for war.
When the UN convoy drew up outside the palace unannounced, about 20 minutes after leaving their headquarters in eastern Baghdad, a dozen nervous security men surrounded them.
They carried walkie-talkies and wore plain clothes. Sentries armed with AK-47 assault rifles hovered in the background. Foreigners caught approaching presidential palaces are routinely arrested and the UN inspectors were kept at the gates for about 10 minutes.
Demetrius Perricos, the senior weapons inspector, talked with tense security men. A surrounding melee of journalists did not help this delicate task. "Please stand aside, we have work to do," Mr Perricos said. Leading a senior Iraqi security man by the arm, he added: "I want to talk with him in private." After Mr Perricos had conducted several quiet conversations, the gates were opened. Saddam suffered the indignity of temporarily handing over control of one of his palaces.
A survey conducted by UN inspectors four years ago found that Iraq's eight "presidential sites" cover more than 12 square miles and contain at least 1,100 buildings, as well as underground bunkers. Sijood was heavily damaged in an allied bombing raid in 1991 and later rebuilt. These palaces are thought to be vital for Saddam's effort to hide his stocks of chemical and biological weapons. UN inspectors have claimed that Iraq uses these sensitive locations to conceal crucial documentary evidence.
But Iraq has always known that the palaces would be likely targets for any inspections.
Mr Perricos and his team left Sijood at 10.40am, after spending less than two hours in the palace. As they drove away, their seven vehicles were accompanied by 18 from Iraq's National Monitoring Directorate, which keeps tabs on the inspectors. They made no comment on their findings, if any. A detailed map left inside a UN vehicle marked "red" and "blue" areas inside Sijood and labelled 19 separate buildings and rooms.
But when the gates were thrown open for journalists, there was nothing obviously sinister. A dozen shabby, bemused gardeners were on their hands and knees. They were pulling up part of the lawn to extend a flowerbed. This appeared to be the only activity taking place on the premises.
A sweeping driveway, lined with palm trees, led up to a marble staircase and an imposing four-storey palace. The mansion, built in the style of an elegant mosque, boasted a row of slender arches and a turquoise dome. Four golden lanterns flanked the heavy wooden door at the entrance. Saddam's jagged presidential crest, which bears an uncanny resemblance to the Star of David, was displayed on the shiny brass door-knobs.
Inside the palace's marble foyer, a domed roof looked down on three ornate storeys, each comprising a perfect ring of delicate white arches. Four gleaming corridors threaded away in different directions, but all the heavy, wooden doors along them were locked. One window overlooked an inner courtyard. An alcove hid the golden doors of two lifts.
On the edge of the foyer was evidence of the purpose that the room's splendour had come to serve. Behind a pillar, an overflowing ashtray had emptied much of its contents on to a once spotless floor, beside a large television screen and a video player.
December 4, 2002
UN inspectors probe Iraq nuclear research HQ amid first sniping from Baghdad
by Kamal Taha, Agence France Presse
UN experts visited the headquarters of Iraq's nuclear research programme Wednesday as they launched a second week of inspections, but Baghdad frowned on an earlier groundbreaking visit to a presidential palace.
The Iraqi foreign ministry questioned the motives of Tuesday's swoop on the capital's al-Sejud palace using sweeping new search powers granted the inspectors under a November Security Council resolution, in Baghdad's first criticism of the new inspections mission.
A joint team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) entered the research headquarters at al-Tuwaitha, some 20 kilometers (13 miles) south of Baghdad, which was home to Iraq's nuclear reactors.
Another team from the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) made the long haul out to the vast Muthanna complex, 150 kilometres (100 miles) north of the capital, the furthest the inspectors have ventured from their Baghdad base since disarmament checks resumed last week. Muthanna was where Iraq first launched its research into chemical and germ warfare in 1985 and saw many of its facilities dismantled by the last UN inspections mission between 1991 and 1998.
The Al-Tuwaitha site was home to several research reactors engaged in the production of enriched uranium, one of which, the Osirak plant, was destroyed by Israeli warplanes in 1981. The whole complex was placed under the permanent control of the IAEA when it broke up Iraq's nuclear programme before the last inspectors pulled out in 1998.
London and Washington have accused Baghdad of continuing its efforts to develop a nuclear bomb by procuring uranium from an unidentified African state. Washington has also charged that Iraq attempted to obtain aluminium tubing for use in its nuclear programme.
"This is something that the president has said publicly, that Iraq did, in fact, seek to buy these tubes for the purpose of producing, not as Iraq now claims, conventional forces, but for the purpose of trying to produce nuclear weapons," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told journalists Monday.
As the UN arms experts made their seventh working day of inspections, they came in for their first criticism from Baghdad since relaunching inspections in Iraq on November 27 after a four-year gap.
In a statement quoted by the official INA news agency and broadcast on state television, a foreign ministry spokesman asked if the inspectors had not started "misbehaving" as their predecessors had done before 1998. "The question is: Is it a start of misbehaviour which would recreate the climate that marked relations between previous arms inspection teams and Iraq?" the spokesman asked in reference to the inspectors' visit to the al-Sejoud palace compound Tuesday. The spokesman wondered if the inspectors were starting to behave in the "bad" way which "the United States, Britain and the Zionist entity (Israel) are seeking to impose on the United Nations."
The spokesman was referring to Iraq's crisis-ridden relationship with inspectors of the former UN Special Commission (UNSCOM), which Baghdad repeatedly accused of spying before it left the country on the eve of the lasrt major US-British bombing blitz. "UNMOVIC and the IAEA face a real test of their credibility and of their (ability to live up to) their promises of professionalism, objectivity and respect of the UN Charter and international law," the Iraqi spokesman said.
The coming days will show if the inspectors are determined to act in conformity with their "impartial international identity or whether they will bow to US-British pressures and blackmail" and be used to "spy on targets that are not mentioned in UN Security Council resolutions".
Tuesday's visit to the al-Sejoud compound was the UN experts' first use of powers denied to their UNSCOM predecessors to make no-notice inspections of Iraq's eight "presidential sites". The experts were able to inspect "every corner" of the al-Sejud palace compound, UN spokesman Hiro Ueki said after the two-hour visit. But the Iraqi spokesman noted that the inspectors entered the palace "without protective clothing or masks to protect them against the alleged biological, chemical and nuclear agents" they were supposed to be looking for. This raises the question of whether the visit was aimed at "searching for prohibited weapons or pursuing other objectives," he charged. [PS]News: [ES]
December 4, 2002
U.N. team inspects former chemical arms factory in the desert
by Charles J. Hanley, The Associated Press
U.N. inspectors entered a former chemical weapons factory in the desert Wednesday while a second team of monitors inspected an Iraqi nuclear complex.
A team of inspectors who work for the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, went to the al-Tuwaitha nuclear complex, about 16 miles southeast of Baghdad.
Israeli warplanes attacked al-Tuwaitha in 1981, destroying the nuclear reactor known as Tamouz. The site was heavily bombed during the Gulf war in 1991, but recent satellite photos have spotted new construction. Wednesday's inspection was presumably designed to determine the purpose of the new structures. The inspectors who drove to the desert chemical weapons factory were making a return visit to check that Iraq had not resumed production at the site.
In the late 1990s, U.N. inspectors demolished the al-Muthanna State Establishment, in wastelands 40 miles northwest of Baghdad, after finding it had been key to Iraq's production of some of the deadliest chemical weapons known: mustard gas, tabun, sarin and VX nerve agent.
Al-Muthanna also became instrumental in the development of biological agents, apparently including anthrax. The desert center operated under the name of Iraqi State Establishment for Pesticide Production, but the Iraqis finally admitted to the U.N. monitors that al-Muthanna produced 4,000 tons of chemical warfare agent per year.
Wednesday's searches came at the end of the first week of renewed inspections under a U.N. Security Council mandate for Iraq to shut down any continuing chemical, biological or nuclear weapons programs.
When the inspectors arrived at the remote front gate of al-Muthanna at 10:25 a.m., after a circuitous drive from Baghdad, they were admitted quickly to what appeared to be a vast desert installation. Al-Muthanna appeared to cover at least several square miles. From the outer gate, through a morning fog, the ruins of scattered buildings could be seen. The site was bombed by U.S. planes in the 1991 Gulf War and then had its equipment and material destroyed under the supervision of U.N. inspectors in the late 1990s.
The disarmament of al-Muthanna was a major achievement of the U.N. inspectorate. A recent Iraqi report said the U.N. teams at al-Muthanna had destroyed 38,500 artillery shells and other chemical-filled weapons, almost 520,000 gallons of liquid material, 150 pieces of equipment used to make chemical weapons, and four production facilities.
So far, the inspectors have reported the Iraqis to be generally cooperating. In New York on Tuesday, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan described Iraq's cooperation as good, but he cautioned "this is only the beginning." Annan's assessment appeared at odds with that of President Bush, who said Monday that early signs from Baghdad "are not encouraging."
A senior Iraqi official said Tuesday that his government will reaffirm that it no longer has mass destruction weapons in a long-awaited declaration later this week.
In Vienna, Austria, Melissa Fleming, spokeswoman for the U.N. nuclear control agency, said the Iraqis were expected to submit their report to the U.N. office in Baghdad on Saturday - one day before the deadline mandated by the Security Council.
Gen. Hossam Mohammed Amin, the chief Iraqi liaison officer, told Baghdad reporters that the Iraqi declaration "will include new elements, but those new elements don't mean that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. "Iraq is free of weapons of mass destruction," Amin said.
The Bush administration alleges Iraq retains chemical and biological weapons - missed during the 1990s inspections - and has not abandoned its nuclear weapons program. Bush threatens to wage war on Iraq - with or without U.N. sanction - if it doesn't disarm. Other governments say that only the Security Council can authorize an attack on Iraq in a situation not involving immediate self-defense.
The Iraqi Foreign Ministry on Wednesday criticized the inspectors for their visit to the presidential palace, Al-Sajoud, the previous day. A statement issued by an unidentified ministry spokesman questioned the validity of the visit. "What did they search for in Al-Sajoud Palace?" the statement asked. "Was this visit really to search for banned weapons or for other aims?"
Tuesday's search of the opulent palace in western Baghdad was the first time the U.N. inspectors had entered a presidential compound since inspections resumed last week. Inspections of presidential palaces in the 1990s had to be undertaken according to strict rules agreed with the Iraqis. However, Tuesday's visit took place under the new U.N. Security Council mandate that gives inspectors the right to enter presidential compounds without notice or any other restriction. The visit was seen as a test of the new mandate.
The inspectors left Al-Sajoud palace after 1 1/2 hours, issuing no comment to reporters as they departed.
The inspectors of the 1990s eliminated tons of Iraqi chemical and biological weapons and the equipment to make them, dismantled Iraq's effort to build nuclear bombs, and destroyed scores of longer-range Iraqi missiles. However, the inspectors reported that they suspected they had not found all of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
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