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Blix says Iraq appears to be 'making an effort'

Blix, right, and ElBaradei will meet with Iraqi officials this weekend.
Blix, right, and ElBaradei will meet with Iraqi officials this weekend.

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U.N. inspectors hold a private interview with an Iraqi scientist linked to previous banned weapons programs, CNN's Nic Robertson reports (February 6)
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VIENNA, Austria (CNN) -- Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix says he is seeing additional cooperation from Baghdad ahead of a weekend visit to Iraq.

Blix -- who heads the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission -- said: "I think it seems ... they are making an effort."

He made the comments as he headed into the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters in Vienna on Friday.

On Thursday, U.N. weapons inspectors were allowed to interview an Iraqi scientist in private for the first time. Inspectors said "a number of issues were addressed" but no details were released. The interview lasted 3 hours and 32 minutes.

Blix and IAEA director Mohamed ElBaradei, the chief nuclear weapons inspector, are travelling to Baghdad this weekend for a third visit with Iraqi officials in the past two months.

"We will want to see a lot more (cooperation) this weekend," Blix said.

Blix and El Baradei want three key issues involving the weapons inspections solved:

• Private interviews with Iraqi scientists by weapons inspectors.

• The use of U-2 spy planes.

• Iraq's enforcement of legislation prohibiting companies from making weapons of mass destruction.

Speaking later on Friday, Blix said Iraqi cooperation with the inspections regime is essential to the process -- and the quicker the better.

But, he said, the inspectors remained committed to "inspections as a viable path to disarmament."

"Without active cooperation from the Iraqi side, it is difficult to achieve an effective inspection," he said. "I don't say that it is impossible."

"We had eight years there (1991-1998) and a lot was achieved, but we would like to have a disarmament that is quicker than that," he added. "The world is not going to wait eight years.

"In the days and weeks that come, Mr. ElBaradei -- the head of the IAEA -- and I myself will do our best in order to maintain inspections as a viable path to disarmament," Blix said.

Blix called the inspections "the most intrusive ... in the world," but said it was a necessary intrusion.

"It is always somewhat unpleasant to be submitted to controls, whether it's the tax man or the controls when we go through airports," he said. "(But) we are not in Iraq to humiliate the Iraqis. We are there to perform effective inspections and to be correct and professional."

U.N. weapons inspectors visited at least four sites on Friday, including military facilities and pesticide warehouses, Iraqi officials said.

Among the sites was the al-Karama company in Baghdad, Iraq's Information Ministry said. U.N. officials have said al-Karama is associated with missile production. Inspectors have visited al-Karama facilities previously during the latest round of inspections.

Inspectors also visited the al-Wathba water project in Baghdad, Iraq said.

Two other sites visited were southeast of Baghdad: Pesticide warehouses in Suwaira and a group of military warehouses along a highway in Qut, the Information Ministry said.

--CNN Producer Ingrid Formanek contributed to this report

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