Chief U.N. inspector warns Iraq
UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- With U.N. arms inspectors on the ground in Iraq, their leader has warned Iraq it must prove that it does not have illegal nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
Chief U.N. inspector Hans Blix said Monday he expected the first inspection to take place as scheduled Wednesday.
The team of 17 inspectors -- the first to go to Iraq since inspections ceased in 1998 -- arrived in Baghdad backed by a tough new U.N. mandate that threatens war if Iraq fails to cooperate.
With a December 8 deadline looming for Iraq to declare any weapons of mass destruction within its borders, Blix acknowledged that Iraqi officials maintained they had no such weapons. "I said they should look into all their stores and stocks," Blix said.
When asked how Baghdad could prove its claim, he said there were two ways, each involving records Iraq has previously submitted.
"They have provided a lot of figures to UNSCOM in the past. These figures do not give the full account," he said. "And if they want to be believed, they had better provide either the weapons, if they remain, or better accounts."
The acronym stands for U.N. Special Commission, set up by the U.N. Security Council following the Persian Gulf War to ensure Iraq's compliance with resolutions banning weapons of mass destruction. It was replaced in 1999 by the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Committee, or UNMOVIC, which Blix heads.
Blix dismissed as "speculations" reports in the news media that the initial inspections would focus on areas searched four years ago by UNSCOM.
"The resolution authorizes us to go anywhere, anytime and we intend to do so," he said at U.N. headquarters in New York.
Among the sites they are expected to go to are so-called "dual use sites" such as Al Nasar north of Baghdad where inspectors believe equipment used for civilian industrial processes could also have been used to work on weapons of mass destruction.
"I said in Baghdad that the production of mustard gas is not exactly the same as production of marmalade. You do expect those who produce chemical weapons to keep some tracks of what you have produced. That is in their own interest. And I'm sure they do," Blix said.
He talked to reporters after a closed-door briefing of the Security Council about his discussions in Baghdad.
The inspection team that arrived in the Iraqi capital Monday included 11 UNMOVIC members who will search for evidence of chemical weapons, biological weapons and missiles. It also includes six members of the International Atomic Energy Agency, charged with searching for evidence of nuclear weapons.
Blix said he told the Iraqis he would ask for the names of personnel associated with the country's weapons of mass destruction program and would ask for access to so-called presidential sites.
Iraq objected to inspections of such sites in 1998 as a violation of the country's sovereignty, Blix said.
"The Iraqi side took note of this but remarked that the entry into a presidential site or a ministry was not exactly the same as entry into a factory," he said.
Presidential sites can spread across many acres and include several buildings.
A U.N. spokesman said the new inspection group includes personnel from the United States, Russia, Australia and Europe.
Dozens more inspectors are expected, with 35 set to arrive in Baghdad on December 8. The U.N. advance team also is bringing in several tons of equipment in preparation to look at more than 700 sites.
The new equipment includes new detection devices, computers and secure telephone lines that have been installed in the office used by the last team of inspectors.
Iraqi representatives will travel with the U.N. inspection teams, but they will not know in advance where the teams are headed.
Decisions about where to search in a country the size of Texas will be made based on what the Iraqis tell the inspectors, along with media reports, intelligence reports and information gleaned from Iraqi weapons workers, Blix said.
The logistics of gathering the inspectors from around the world into one place and ensuring they have the tools to do their job have been daunting, he said.
"I think perhaps it's underestimated how difficult it is to get 100 persons in place, 35 jeeps, eight helicopters," he said.
Former chief U.N. weapons inspector Richard Butler said Monday that inspectors will be concerned with possible mobile biological weapons labs and underground facilities for chemical and nuclear weapons.
The inspection team will provide an initial report to the United Nations 60 days after it starts work.
Asked whether his team would depart Iraq should the country be found in material breach of the U.N. resolution, Blix said, "For the moment, we're having great problems in getting in. I think it's early to think too thoroughly about getting out.
"We do not have any illusions that it's an easy job laid upon us."
Since 1998, technology advances have taken place that are expected to help this latest attempt, he said. Four years ago, satellites could see objects 10 meters in diameter; now they can see them 65 centimeters in diameter, he said.
Asked if the inspectors were under pressure from the United States to be more aggressive, he said, "We get recommendations and advice from all countries, including the United States. We may not be the brightest in the world, but I can tell you, we're in nobody's pocket."
"So far, so good," said Ambassador Wang Yingfan, U.N. Security Council president, about Blix's briefing. "I think the discussion has been regarded very useful."