Blix: 'No smoking gun' but few answers
UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, briefed the U.N. Security Council on Thursday on their assessment of Iraq's accounting of its weapons programs.
They spoke to reporters after the briefing, and the following is a transcript of their remarks:
BLIX: ... For my part, I said that we still get prompt access from the Iraqi side, that the inspections are covering ever wider areas and ever more sites in Iraq, that in the course of these inspections we have not found any smoking gun. However, we are getting more and more information and better knowledge about the situation and that the declaration regrettably has not helped very much to clarify any question marks of the past.
Lastly, I can tell you that the council has given very good support, expressed confidence in our two organizations, and that they look forward to the briefing that we'll give on the 27th of this month.
ELBARADEI: I think, as Dr. Blix mentioned, it was a very good meeting with the council [Thursday]. We both reported that we are inching forward with implementation of our task. We are getting access to all the sites. However, both of us also indicated that we need more proactive support on the part of Iraq to be able to move quickly to implement our mandate. We also indicated that we need more actionable information on the part of governments. And we committed ourselves to intensify the process so we can achieve the result intended as soon as we can.
We will provide an update report on the 27th of this month. However, that report, we should emphasize, is an update report; it is not a final report. It's a work in progress. And this simply would register where we are on the 27th of January, but we obviously continue to -- we'll continue our work afterward, and we still have a lot of work to do.
REPORTER: You say you haven't found a smoking gun. You also said that the Iraqis are being cooperative. You also say that the Security Council is being helpful. Aren't you just sitting on the fence and trying to keep people happy all around?
BLIX: No, I was saying that the declaration didn't provide us any new evidence, that it didn't answer the questions that were put already ... and that the Iraqis could have looked at those questions and answered more -- answered better.
So we are not satisfied.
REPORTER: You said at many times that you are not a defection agency, you are not a refugee agency, not in anybody's pocket. How are you going to deal with the pressure being exerted upon you to interview Iraqi scientists outside Iraq? Time magazine has already issued an article saying that you'll look into this within a few days. You don't seem to be warm [to] the idea. ...
REPORTER: Are you going to implement this? I know the choice is there, the option is there. Are you going to move on it or are you going to just ...
BLIX: Are you trying to increase the pressure further?
Well, let me say about interviews, and Mohamed and I are agreed on our view on this -- that interviews have been [done] in the past, and it remains a very useful source of information, and we do carry out a lot of interviews as we go into installations, whether military or civilian, whatever. We carry out a lot of interviews, and we get a lot of information. And frequently the minders [Iraqi officials] are present. So interviews with minders present are not useless. They were not in the past, and they are not useless now.
However, Iraq is a totalitarian country, and we do not want to have interviews where people are intimidated. That happened in the past. That was why the Resolution 1441 stated explicitly that one should have the right to carry out interviews in private or take people outside.
We are ready to use the options we can. But at the same time, we cannot force any individual to speak if he doesn't accept that, or we cannot force anybody to go abroad or force them to defect.
The fear, of course, is that people's will, people's answers to us may be influenced by fears that they have anyway.
So we would like to exercise all these options. And we will. Already next week, for our part, we will ask for some interviews in Baghdad, I can tell you.
REPORTER: Maybe you'll answer...
ELBARADEI: Yes. I told the council [Thursday] that we were not able, for example, to have interviews in Iraq in private. And that does not indicate the proactive cooperation we expect from Iraq.
I made it clear, and I think Dr. Blix shared this view, that if Iraq is willing to show proactive cooperation, we should be allowed to do private interviews inside Iraq. We also both are of the view that should we identify people whom we would like to interview outside of Iraq. We'll exercise that right.
We would like, however, to continue to work on the practical arrangement to make sure that we have the right people, that these people are ready to be interviewed abroad, and that we have the arrangement which would ensure their security outside should they decide to stay abroad or if they decide to go back to Iraq.
So we will exercise fully our right under the resolution.
REPORTER: Dr. Blix, you were quite critical of the list of experts that was provided ...
REPORTER: ... by Iraq.
REPORTER: And I'm wondering, could you be more specific about why you think this list is inadequate? Have you or are you going to go back to Iraq with a direct petition for more information? And have you asked the council for help to improve this list?
BLIX: No, I think we can ask questions all by ourselves. And we intended to do so, to answer properly the question.
ELBARADEI: We are going there on the 19th and 20th of this month, and obviously we have a list of questions we need to press on the Iraqis, and the list of scientists is clearly one of these questions we need to press on the Iraqis, that we need a comprehensive list of scientists.
BLIX: The list even failed to comprise a number of names that we have from the UNSCOM [U.N. Special Mission] archives, which should have been there. So it was not an adequate list, and we will bring it up in our talks in Baghdad.
REPORTER: Dr. Blix, you've said that you need proactive support ... from Iraq. Yet, you've also said that Iraq has left a lot of important questions unanswered about its chemical and biological weapons.
Now how much time, for example, do you think is reasonable to give Iraq to comply with these requests for information? And do you consider perhaps this trip to Baghdad next week as maybe a last-ditch effort to get these answers, or do you expect to sort of have an open slate, maybe give them a month or two?
BLIX: Well, this is entirely in the hands of the Security Council. The history of inspection and disarmament in Iraq did not begin with Resolution 1441, nor does it necessarily end on the 27th of January.
It is for the members of the council and the council to decide where will they go. But we were set up on Resolution 1284 of 1999, and that has a timetable of its own, and our next regular quarterly report will be on the 1st of March.
REPORTER: Jeremy Greenstock, the British ambassador, suggested that on that question he would defer to you; i.e., how long you need before non-proactivity is considered a breach.
BLIX: No, I don't think that he defers to us. I think that's in the hands of the council to decide what patience do they have.
ELBARADEI: We report to the council. We give them a full account on where we are. The political evaluation of whether that's enough and what needs to be done next is really the prerogative of the Security Council. It is not us.
REPORTER: Have you received any information from a council member or council members regarding the Iraqis' mass destruction program? ...
BLIX: Yes, there were some questions raised about the destruction, and we both answered that. And the guidelines are given in Resolution 687 from 1991, and destruction is -- we are ordered there to ensure destruction of items which were weapons of mass destruction or related to them or missiles of a range of more than 150 kilometers.
Now, we know, of course, that Iraq imports things outside the oil-for-food program. And these are then in violation of the resolutions. But they are not subject to this rule from 1991 about destruction. Sometimes it can be difficult to decide whether an item falls within one category or the other, and that is something that we are pondering in some current cases. ...
REPORTER: Dr. ElBaradei, if I could, and also to Dr. Blix, what are the Iraqis telling you? We understand that they're telling you that they've unilaterally destroyed a lot of these old documents or old weapons; also that the U.S., in the Desert Fox campaign, a successful campaign that the U.S. called it, was successful in destroying these documents or these weapons programs.
What are they telling you? And what do you think of what they're telling you ...
ELBARADEI: What they say is that, "We have no record of destruction." And we have told them that if you cannot produce documents, at least you should be able to produce people who have participated in that destruction process or at least provide residues of the items that were destroyed.
So we cannot just simply take their word for it -- that this item has been destroyed, and we do not have a document. Because then we cannot provide the council any degree of certainty that that item has been destroyed.
And that's what we have been saying. There are a lot of open questions in that fashion. And unless the Iraqis come forward with convincing evidence, these questions will continue to remain open and the council, in our judgment, will not come to a closure on these issues.
BLIX: Now you can get more answers from Ambassador Negroponte.
REPORTER: Dr. ElBaradei, what have you found on the question of aluminum tubes? ... What have you told the council? This is obviously something the U.S. is very interested in. Are they being used for uranium enrichment?
ELBARADEI: We told the council that we have been investigating Iraqi report that they have imported aluminum tubes for rockets and not for centrifuge, not for uranium enrichment. We are investigating their effort to procure the aluminum tubes. We are in touch with some of the intended suppliers and the question is still open, but we believe at this stage that these aluminum tubes were intended for manufacturing of rockets.
BLIX: One last question.
REPORTER: Dr. ElBaradei, you mentioned the problem with the missing HMX (high melting explosive). Can you give us sort of an indication of what that does and what your concern is and what role this plays in the weapons program?
ELBARADEI: Well, the HMX are high explosives, and we are now going through the material balance of what we know existed in Iraq with regard to the HMX. They have told us that some of the HMX material has been used in cement mines, and we are going now through the accounting of all the HMX material in Iraq before we come to a conclusion. So it is an ongoing process.
REPORTER: In a nuclear device, what role does HMX --
ELBARADEI: Well, high explosive, of course, can be used for detonating a nuclear weapon.