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Weapons inspector may have key role in war decision

Hans Blix
Hans Blix

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CNN's Sheila MacVicar examines the record of chief U.N. Weapons Inspector Hans Blix (October 2)
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- A 74-year-old Swede's verdict on Iraq may play a big part in determining if there will be war with that country.

Hans Blix, a former director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, is the chief weapons inspector for the United Nations. He also is the man charged by the U.N. Security Council with taking weapons inspectors back to Iraq.

"It all has to be immediate, unconditional, unrestricted access," Blix said. "This is what we are seeking. The devil is in the detail."

Blix faces a demanding task, said David Albright, a former U.N. weapons inspector.

"It takes a tough person to convince the Iraqis their survival is at stake and if they do not cooperate, there will be an invasion by the United States," Albright said. "You don't want an inspector in there that sends ambiguous signals."

According to his official biography, Blix was born in 1928 in Uppsala, Sweden. He studied at the Sweden's University of Uppsala and at Columbia University in the United States. He received a Ph.D. from Cambridge University in England and in 1959, he received a doctor of laws from Stockholm University.

From 1961 until 1981, he was a member of Sweden's delegation to the United Nations General Assembly. From 1962 to 1978, he was a member of the Swedish delegation to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, Switzerland.

He served as director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency from 1981 to 1997.

Blix was appointed to his current job by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in January 2000 and started work on March, 1, 2000.

Blix is not without his critics, who note that Iraq developed its covert nuclear weapons program through the 1980s under his term at the Atomic Energy Agency. That program came to light, and was destroyed, only after the Persian Gulf War.

The discovery in Iraq 10 years ago will shape the way Blix operates in the future, said John Ritch, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in Vienna.

"From the Iraqi perspective, he will be too demanding," Ritch said. "From the perspective of the Bush administration, he will be too judicious and diplomatic. From the perspective of the people who want peace at any price, he will be too uncompromising."

Blix's dealings with North Korea, another nation accused of having a covert nuclear program, may offer more clues to how he may handle Iraq.

"He actually became quite harsh against North Korea, and he was criticized by some who said he was going to create a war between North and South Korea over nuclear inspection," said Albright.

Blix once said, "We are following the rules set down by the Security Council. They are our Bible, or Quran, whatever you prefer."

Analysts say the question is whether Blix will be firm enough in enforcing those rules to convince the United States that there is no need to go to war.

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