Butler: Iraq will divulge more about weapons program
December 14, 1997
Web posted at: 4:34 p.m. EST (2134 GMT)
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The top weapons inspector for the United Nations said Sunday that Iraq had promised to give him more information on its biological weapons program and on its arsenal of missiles and warheads.
"(Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister) Tariq Aziz said to me on the telephone today he will be in a position to give me a fuller report on the biological area tonight," Richard Butler told reporters Sunday.
"He mentioned in particular his wish for me to hear their report on chemical and biological weapons. That seemed to me to be a positive development and I took it in good spirit."
Butler heads the U.N. Special Commission (UNSCOM) charged with making sure Iraq has destroyed its cache of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons in compliance with U.N. sanctions imposed after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. The United Nations will consider lifting the sanctions after the weapons inspectors certify Iraq's compliance. ( 339KB/30 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
He and Aziz are to meet Monday to discuss Iraq's refusal to grant weapons inspectors access to "sensitive sites" such as President Saddam Hussein's presidential palaces. U.S. and U.N. officials believe Iraq is storing dangerous weapons in such places.
On Sunday, Butler said he "focused on missiles and warheads" during a morning meeting with Iraqi presidential adviser Amer al-Saadi and Russian weapons inspector Nikita Smidovich.
"A promise was made by the Iraqi side to provide us with further information that we have requested," Butler said.
Access is Butler's goal
Butler arrived in Baghdad Friday, making his first trip to Iraq since a crisis erupted last month over Baghdad's expulsion of U.S. weapons inspectors. They've since been allowed back in the country.
Iraq claims it destroyed the banned weapons six years ago, and that U.S. politics is keeping the United Nations from lifting the sanctions.
Iraqi newspapers often criticize Richard Butler and the
"They have finished their work, but they are continuing their job for political reasons," Trade Minister Mohammed Mehdi Saleh reportedly said.
"We've got a professional job to do; we do it on the basis of evidence," Butler told NBC on Sunday. "You really want that light at the end of the tunnel to get larger, to get out of sanctions? There is only one way down that tunnel and that is on the track of disarmament."
"Mad dog" Butler
Since March 1996, inspectors looking for concealed weapons have been told 63 times they were dealing with sensitive sites. Iraq claims such sites are vital to national security and sovereignty, and keeps them off-limits.
"(Butler) knows very well that Iraq will not allow inspection of these sites, not because it hides something, but because they are symbols of Iraq's sovereignty," the Babel newspaper has said. Babel is owned by Hussein's son, Odai.
Butler says he's armed with the full support of the U.N. Security Council -- including Russia, the United States and Great Britain -- and its demand for full access.
He says there will be some "sensitivity to sites in Iraq that may have a national security or sovereignty or a national dignity aspect, but not at the expense of our basic principle."
"It's a tough negotiation," he added.
The Iraqi press has labeled UNSCOM's top dog "mad dog" Butler. Asked what he thought about that, Butler told NBC: "I haven't barked yet, and I don't intend to."
Reuters contributed to this report.