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U.N.: Iraq imported missile engines

Interviews with key personnel monitored

ElBaradei, left, and Blix address reporters after briefing the U.N. Security Council.
ElBaradei, left, and Blix address reporters after briefing the U.N. Security Council.

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UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- Iraq violated U.N. sanctions by importing missile engines as recently as 2002 and delivered an "inadequate" list of scientists and technicians involved in its weapons programs, chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix told the U.N. Security Council Thursday.

In addition, nuclear inspectors have been unable to interview key personnel without an Iraqi government observer present, Mohamed ElBaradei, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said.

The United States and Britain called on inspectors to intensify their searches after Thursday's briefing of the Security Council, and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, John Negroponte, urged inspectors to question Iraqi scientists outside the country.

Inspectors have yet to find any "smoking gun" demonstrating that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction prohibited by U.N. resolutions ending the 1991 Persian Gulf war, said Blix, the head of the U.N. Monitoring, Inspections and Verification Commission. But that "is no guarantee that prohibited stocks or activities could not exist at other sites," Blix told Security Council members, according to notes released after the briefing. (Full Transcript)

Blix called Iraq's 12,000-page declaration of its weapons programs, delivered in December, "rich in volume but poor in new information about weapons issues and practically devoid of new evidence on such issues." (Blix talking points)

Import of missile engines admitted by Iraq

Blix said the declaration lists the import of missile engines and raw material for the production of solid rocket fuel, done "in violation of the relevant resolutions regulating import and export to Iraq," he told the council. It also does not adequately account for stockpiles of the chemical agent VX, he said.

On Iraq's nuclear program, ElBaradei told the council that questions remain about Iraq's possession of a high explosive that could be used in nuclear weapons, and that "no new information of significance" has emerged about Iraq's efforts to obtain an atomic bomb. (ElBaradei talking points)

In addition, he reported, Iraqi officials have been unwilling to be questioned by inspectors without an Iraqi "minder" present. The interviews went forward in the presence of the Iraqi government monitor, "with a view to gaining whatever information was available under the circumstances," ElBaradei said.

In Washington, meanwhile, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the United States knows "for a fact" that Iraq possesses prohibited weapons.

The United States and Britain are moving troops, warships and aircraft into the Persian Gulf in preparation for a possible military confrontation with Iraq if it refuses to comply with U.N. resolutions. Iraqi leaders accuse the United States of trying to use the January 27 report -- in which U.N. weapons inspectors make a preliminary report on their findings -- as a pretext for a military attack. (Top brass head to Qatar)

start quote"The inspections also have confirmed that the British and American allegations are all false, and Iraq does not have any nuclear weapons or weapons or mass destruction."end quote
-- Gen. Hossam Amin, head of Iraq's National Monitoring Directorate

But in London, a spokesman for Prime Minister Tony Blair -- the most supportive U.S. ally on Iraq -- said Blair believes inspectors should be given the "time and space" to do their work.

The January 27 presentation "should not be regarded in any way as a deadline," the spokesman said Blair told his Cabinet.

Iraq was required to give up weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles under the U.N. resolutions that ended the 1991 Persian Gulf War. In Baghdad, the head of the Iraqi agency that deals with weapons inspections told reporters that Baghdad has complied with those mandates.

"The inspections are continuing without any hindrance," said Gen. Hussam Amin, the head of Iraq's National Monitoring Directorate.

"The inspections also have confirmed that the British and American allegations are all false, and Iraq does not have any nuclear weapons or weapons or mass destruction."

CNN Correspondents Richard Roth and David Ensor contributed to this report.



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