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Blix challenges U.S. weapons hunt

Hans Blix
Blix withdrew his inspectors before bombs were dropped on Iraq.

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U.N. pushes for its inspectors to return. Richard Roth reports (April 18).
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Plans by Washington to send a 1,000-strong team to look for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq are being challenged by the United Nations' chief inspector Hans Blix.

The Pentagon wants its own "Iraq Survey Group" of military personnel, U.S. government intelligence analysts, civilian scientists and private contractors to look for any illegal weapons sites.

But Blix wants his team to return, saying it would increase the credibility of any weapons discoveries. He withdrew the U.N. team days before the war started.

Blix told the British Broadcasting Corporation Thursday: "We would be able not only to receive the reports of the Americans and the Brits of what they have found or not found, but we would be able to corroborate a good deal of this.

"The world would like to have a credible report on the absence or eradication of the program of weapons of mass destruction."

U.S. President George W. Bush wants the lifting of U.N. trade sanctions on Iraq -- imposed in 1990 after Iraq invaded Kuwait.

But this may not happen until the U.N. Security Council declares Iraq free of weapons of mass destruction.

U.S. military personnel are yet to find any chemical, biological or nuclear weapons in Iraq.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says it will take Iraqis coming forward with information before such weapons turn up.

"I think what will happen is, we'll discover people who will tell us where to go find it," Rumsfeld said Thursday. "It is not like a treasure hunt, where you just run around looking everywhere hoping you find something.

"The inspectors didn't find anything, and I doubt that we will. What we will do is find the people who will tell us."

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell told America's Public Broadcasting Service: "There are thousands of sites that will have to be looked at, and there are hundreds and hundreds of people who have knowledge who will have to be interviewed."

Initial elements of the "Iraq Survey Group" are already in Iraq and the full organization should be operational within two weeks, a U.S. defense official said Thursday.

On Saturday, Lt. Gen. Amir al-Saadi, Saddam Hussein's top science adviser and Iraq's point man for the last round of U.N. inspections, surrendered to coalition troops -- but denied Iraq had any weapons of mass destruction. (Full story)


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