Blix: Iraqi cooperation has been 'very limited'
But chief weapons inspector welcomes missile pledge
UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- Despite welcoming Iraq's decision to destroy its illegal missiles as "a very significant piece of real disarmament" in remarks to reporters Friday, chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix labelled the country's overall effort to disarm "very limited so far," in his latest report to the Security Council.
In a report handed over to U.N. Security Council members Friday, Blix reiterated that Resolution 1441 calls on Iraq to cooperate "immediately, unconditionally and actively." He said Iraq has cooperated actively in "process," meaning Baghdad has provided access to any site inspectors have asked about.
Iraq initially objected to U-2 surveillance flights, Blix noted, and it was initially difficult for inspectors to be allowed to use helicopters as a means of transportation. And though inspectors have interviewed a few Iraqi scientists, Blix wrote, "It has not yet proved possible to obtain interviews with Iraqi scientists, managers or others believed to have knowledge relevant to the disarmament tasks in circumstances that give satisfactory credibility."
In his report, Blix applauded Iraq on several points:
• The U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission [UNMOVIC] has begun destroying about 50 liters of mustard gas declared by Iraq and secured by previous inspection teams in 1998.
• Iraq identified two R-400 aerial bombs, as well as remnants of what it says were 118 other R-400 bombs.
• Blix said that though the 12,000-page weapons declaration submitted by Iraq was mostly a rehash of previous information, it did "shed light in the missile sector and in the sector of non-proscribed biological activities in the period 1998-2002."
One way Iraq could move forward would be to better clarify outstanding issues left by its weapons declaration, which Blix said contains "little new substantive information."
"In most cases, the issues remain unresolved because there is a lack of supporting evidence," Blix wrote. "Such supporting evidence, in the form of documentation, testimony by individuals who took part in activities, or physical evidence, would be required."
UNMOVIC has conducted more than 550 inspections at about 350 sites, including 44 sites that had never been searched by previous inspection teams, Blix said. More than 200 chemical samples and more than 100 biological samples have been taken.
He added that "UNMOVIC is finalizing an internal document of some importance, namely a list of disarmament issues, which it considers currently unresolved, and of the measures which Iraq could take to resolve them, either by presenting proscribed stocks and items, or by providing convincing evidence that such stocks or items no longer exist."
Blix leaves the key question up to the Security Council: "Has Iraq provided such cooperation [that Resolution 1441 demands] and has it led to disarmament?"
Mixed reaction to missile pledge
Iraq's pledge to begin destroying its Al Samoud 2 missiles met with a mixed reaction after Baghdad said it does not know how to destroy the weapons and wanted a U.N. technical mission to discuss the details. (Text of letter)
U.S. and British officials dismissed the announcement, saying Iraq needed to disarm completely.
"Total disarmament is total disarmament is total disarmament. It's not a piece of disarmament," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Friday. "As I said the other day, if someone takes one bullet out of the chamber of a gun while they have six other bullets in the gun, they haven't disarmed."
But French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin called Iraq's decision an important step that showed inspections were working.
Iraqi and U.N. officials are expected to hold technical talks Saturday on the destruction of the missiles, U.N. officials said. Blix said his deputy, Demetrius Perricos, is in Baghdad and will discuss with the Iraqis the "program for the destruction."
Russian veto threat
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said Friday that Moscow is prepared to use its Security Council veto power to strike down a second resolution on Iraq if that were necessary for "maintaining world stability."
The United States, Britain and Spain have proposed a resolution declaring that Iraq has missed its last chance to disarm. The resolution does not explicitly call for military action, but if approved, it could clear the way for a U.S.-led war on Iraq, which Russia, France and China oppose.
"We will consider any new resolutions that support the weapons inspectors' work," Ivanov said at a Beijing news conference after two days of meetings with Chinese officials. (Full story)
"But we will not support any resolutions that directly or indirectly authorize using force against Iraq."
-- For latest developments, see CNN.com's Iraq Tracker.