28 January 2003
Security Council Briefed by Chief UN Weapons Experts on First 60 Days of Inspections in Iraq
NEW YORK, 27 January (UN Headquarters) -- The Security Council this morning heard formal briefings by the heads of the weapons inspections regime in Iraq, Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, on the first 60 days of their work, fulfilling a requirement of resolution 1441 (2002), on which the current inspections are based.
The Executive Chairman of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), Hans Blix, said UNMOVIC shared the sense of urgency felt by the Council to use inspection as a path to attain, within a reasonable time, the verifiable disarmament of Iraq. Recalling that Security Council resolution 1441 (2002) had emphatically reaffirmed the demand on Iraq to cooperate, he said it would appear that Iraq had decided in principle to provide cooperation on substance in order to complete the disarmament task through inspection.
At the same time, he drew attention to some outstanding issues and questions. On the nerve agent VX -- one of the most toxic ever developed -- he recalled Iraq had declared that it had produced VX only on a pilot scale and, with poor quality, had never weaponized it. But, UNMOVIC had conflicting information, including indications that the agent had been weaponized. A number of chemical bombs containing some 1,000 tonnes of chemical agent were unaccounted for, and several thousand chemical rockets were unaccounted for.
On biological agents, he said Iraq had provided little evidence for its declared production of 8,500 litres of anthrax and no convincing evidence of its destruction, which it stated it had unilaterally done in 1991. There were strong indications that Iraq had produced more anthrax than it had declared, and that at least some of that had been retained after the declared destruction date. A significant quantity of imported bacterial growth media sufficient to produce about 5,000 litres of concentrated anthrax had not been declared.
Pointing to a range of developments in the missile field during the past four years, which had been presented by Iraq as non-proscribed activities, he said that significant questions remained as to whether Iraq had retained SCUD-type missiles after the Gulf War. Also, Iraq had refurbished its missile production infrastructure. In particular, it had reconstituted a number of casting chambers that had been destroyed under United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) supervision. Whatever missile system those chambers were intended for, they could produce motors for missiles capable of ranges significantly greater than 150 kilometres, Mr. Blix said.
The Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, told the Council that to date the Agency had found no evidence that Iraq had revived its nuclear weapons programme since the elimination of its programme in the 1990s. However, the Agency's work was steadily progressing and should be allowed to run its natural course.
Good progress had been made in the past two months in the Agency's knowledge of Iraq's nuclear capabilities, with a total of 139 inspections at some 106 locations to date, he said. While the Agency was continuing with its reconnaissance work, inspections were now well into the "investigative" phase, with particular emphasis on determining what, if anything, had occurred in Iraq over the past four years relevant to the re-establishment of nuclear capabilities. Thus far, no prohibited nuclear activities had been identified during inspections of those buildings and facilities identified as having been modified or constructed during that period.
A particular issue of focus, he continued, had been the attempted procurement by Iraq of high strength aluminium tubes, and the question of whether those tubes, if acquired, could be used for the manufacture of nuclear centrifuges. From the Agency's analysis to date, it appeared that the aluminium tubes would be consistent with the purpose stated by Iraq and, unless modified, would not be suitable for manufacturing centrifuges. While inspectors were still investigating that issue, it was clear that the attempt to acquire such tubes was prohibited under Council resolution 687 (1991).
Another area of focus, he said, had been to determine how certain other "dual use" materials had been relocated or used -- that was, materials that could be used in nuclear weapons production but also have other legitimate uses. A fourth focal point had been the investigation of reports of Iraqi efforts to import uranium after 1991, which Iraqi authorities had denied.
"With our verification system now in place, barring exceptional circumstances, and provided there is sustained proactive cooperation by Iraq, we should be able, within the next few months, to provide credible assurance that Iraq has no nuclear weapons programme", he said. "These few months would be a valuable investment in peace because they could help us avoid a war."
He had emphasized to Iraqi officials the need to shift from passive support -- that is, responding as needed to inspectors' requests -- to proactive support -- that is, voluntarily assisting inspectors by providing documentation, people and other evidence that would assist in filling the remaining gaps in the Agency's information. Iraq's proactive engagement would be in its own best interest and was a window of opportunity that might not remain open for very much longer, he said.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan attended today's meeting. The representative of Iraq had been invited to participate. Before the briefings, a letter was circulated to Council members from the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iraq concerning interviews with Iraqi scientists. It would be circulated as a Security Council document.
The meeting began at 10:40 a.m. and was adjourned at 11:36 a.m.
Statements by Chief Inspectors
HANS BLIX, Executive Chairman of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), cited the three important questions before the Council today: how much in the way of prohibited weapons and related materials might remain undeclared and intact from the period prior to 1991, and, possibly thereafter; what, if anything, was illegally produced or procured after 1998, when the inspectors left; and how to prevent the production or procurement of any weapons of mass destruction in the future.
He said that resolution 1441 (2002) emphatically reaffirmed the demand on Iraq to cooperate. Indeed, it required that cooperation to be immediate, unconditional and active. The resolution contained many provisions, which were welcomed as enhancing and strengthening the inspection regime. The unanimity with which it was adopted had sent a powerful signal that the Council was "of one mind" in creating a last opportunity for peaceful disarmament in Iraq through inspection.
The UNMOVIC shared the sense of urgency felt by the Council to use inspection as a path to attain, within a reasonable time, verifiable disarmament of Iraq, he said. Under the relevant resolutions, that would be followed by monitoring for such time as the Council felt would be required. The resolutions also pointed to a zone free of mass destruction weapons as the ultimate goal. The UNMOVIC was fully aware of and appreciated the close attention, which the Council devoted to the inspections in Iraq. While today's "updating" was foreseen in resolution 1441 (2002), the Council could and did call for additional briefings whenever it wished. One was held on 19 January and a further one was tentatively set for 14 February.
Turning to the key requirement of cooperation and Iraq's response to it, he said that cooperation might be said to relate to both substance and process. It would appear from his experience so far that Iraq had decided in principle to provide cooperation on substance, in order to bring the disarmament task to completion through the peaceful process of inspection and to bring the monitoring task on a firm course. An initial minor step would be to adopt the long overdue legislation required by the resolutions. Concerning cooperation on process, "Iraq has, on the whole, cooperated rather well so far with UNMOVIC in this field", he said. Access had been provided to all sites he had wanted to inspect and, with one exception, that had been prompt.
Two problems he said he wished to register related to two kinds of air operations. Iraq had refused to guarantee the safety of a U-2 plane placed at UNMOVIC's disposal for aerial imagery and surveillance, unless a number of conditions were fulfilled. As those conditions went beyond the stipulations in resolution 1441 (2002) and what had been practised by the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) and Iraq in the past, he noted that Iraq was not so far complying with that request. Another air operation problem concerned the use of helicopters flying into the no-fly zones. Iraq had insisted on sending helicopters of its own to accompany UNMOVIC's, but as that would have raised a safety problem, the matter was solved by an offer on UNMOVIC's party to take the accompanying Iraq minders in the inspectors' helicopters to the sites.
There had been some recent disturbing incidents and harassment, he continued. For instance, some far-fetched allegations had been made publicly that questions posed by inspectors were of an intelligence character. Iraq knew that the inspectors did not serve intelligence purposes, and Iraq should not say so. On a number of occasions, demonstrations had taken place in front of UNMOVIC's offices and at inspection sites. Those did not facilitate an already difficult job, in which the inspectors tried to be effective, professional and, at the same time, correct.
Discussing cooperation on substance, Dr. Blix referred to the 12,000-page declaration submitted by Iraq on 7 December 2002. In the fields of missiles and biotechnology, the declaration contained a "good deal" of new material and information covering the period from 1998 and onward. That had been welcome. One might have expected that in preparing the declaration, Iraq would have tried to respond to, clarify and submit supporting evidence regarding many of the open disarmament issues. Among them -- UNSCOM document S/1999/94 of January 1999 and the so-called "Amorim Report" of March 1999 (document S/1999/356) -- were questions which UNMOVIC, governments and independent commentators had often cited.
He said those reports did not contend that weapons of mass destruction remained in Iraq, but nor did they exclude that possibility. They pointed to lack of evidence and inconsistencies, which raised question marks that must be straightened out if the weapons dossiers were to be closed and confidence was to arise. Regrettably, Iraq's declaration did not seem to contain any new evidence that would eliminate the questions or reduce their number.
Turning to some examples of outstanding issues and questions, he began with chemical weapons. The nerve agent VX, he said, was one of the most toxic ever developed. Iraq had declared that it had only produced VX on a pilot scale, just a few tonnes, and that the quality was poor and the product unstable. Consequently, it said, that agent had never been weaponized. Iraq had said that the small quantity of the agent remaining after the Gulf War had been unilaterally destroyed in the summer of 1991. The UNMOVIC, however, had information that conflicted with that account. There were indications that Iraq had worked on the problem of purity and stabilization and that more had been achieved than had been declared. Indeed, even one of the documents provided by Iraq indicated that the purity of the agent, at least in laboratory production, was higher than declared. There were also indications that the agent was weaponized.
On the so-called "Air Force document", found by an UNSCOM inspector in a safe in Iraqi Air Force Headquarters in 1998 and providing an account of the expenditures of bombs, including chemical bombs, by Iraq in the Iraq-Iran war, he was encouraged by the fact that Iraq had now provided that document to UNMOVIC. The document indicated that 13,000 chemical bombs were dropped by the Iraqi Air Force between 1983 and 1988, while Iraq had declared that 19,500 bombs were consumed during that period. Thus, there was a discrepancy on the order of about 1,000 tonnes. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, he must assume that those quantities were now unaccounted for.
Regarding the discovery of a number of 122 millimetre chemical rocket warheads in a bunker at a storage depot south-west of Baghdad, he said that that was a relatively new bunker and, therefore, the rockets must have been moved there in the past few years, at a time when Iraq should not have had such munitions. The investigation of those rockets was still proceeding. Their discovery did not resolve, but rather pointed to the issue of several thousands of chemical rockets that were unaccounted for. Their finding showed that Iraq needed to make more effort to ensure that its declaration was currently accurate. Inspectors had also found, at another site, a laboratory quantity of thiodiglycol, a mustard gas precursor.
On biological weapons, he recalled that Iraq had produced about 8,500 litres of anthrax, a biological warfare agent, which it stated it had unilaterally destroyed in the summer of 1991. Iraq had provided little evidence for that production and no convincing evidence for its destruction. There were strong indications that Iraq had produced more anthrax than it had declared and that at least some of that had been retained after the declared destruction date. That might still exist. Either it should be found and destroyed under UNMOVIC supervision, or convincing evidence should be produced to show that it had been destroyed in 1991. Also, Iraq had not declared a significant quantity of bacterial growth media, which had been acknowledged as imported in Iraq. The quantity of media involved would suffice to produce about 5,000 litres of concentrated anthrax, he said.
Concerning missiles, there remained significant questions as to whether Iraq had retained SCUD-type missiles after the Gulf War, he went in. Iraq had declared the consumption of a number of SCUD missiles as targets in the development of an anti-ballistic missile defence system during the 1980s, yet no technical information had been produced about that programme or data on the consumption of missiles. There had been a range of developments in the missile field during the past four years presented by Iraq as non-proscribed activities. The inspectors were trying to gain a clear understanding of them. Meanwhile, Iraq had been asked to cease flight tests of two missile systems. It had refurbished its missile production infrastructure; in particular, it had reconstituted a number of casting chambers, which had been destroyed under UNSCOM supervision. Whatever missile system those chambers were intended for, they could produce motors for missiles capable of ranges significantly greater than 150 kilometres, Mr. Blix said.
Also associated with missile development had been the import of a number of items, despite the sanctions, he said. Foremost among them was the import of 380 rocket engines for the Al Samoud 2, a liquid-fuelled missile. Iraq had also declared the recent import of chemicals used in propellants, test instrumentation and guidance and control systems. Those items might well be for proscribed purposes, but that was yet to be determined. What was clear was that they were illegally brought into Iraq, indicating that Iraq, or some company in Iraq, had circumvented the restrictions imposed by various resolutions. He emphasized the presumptions did not solve the problem; evidence and full transparency might help.
Specifically, he said that information provided by Member States about the movement and concealment of missiles and chemical weapons and mobile units for biological weapons production would certainly be followed up. On the question of documents, he said that when he had urged Iraq to present more evidence, the response had often been that there were no more documents. The recent inspecting finding in the private home of a scientist of a box of 3,000 pages of documents, much of it related to the laser enrichment of uranium, supported a long-held concern that documents might be distributed to the homes of private individuals. The Iraqi side, however, claimed that research staff sometimes brought home papers from their work places. He could not help but think that that case might not be isolated, and that such placements of documents was deliberate to make discovery difficult and to seek to shield documents.
He said that when Iraq claimed that tangible evidence in the form of documents was not available, it ought, at least, to find individuals, engineers, scientists and managers to testify about their experience. Some 400 names for all biological and chemical weapons programmes, as well as their missile programmes, had been provided by the Iraqi side. That could be compared to more than 3,500 names of people associated with those past weapons programmes that UNSCOM either interviewed in the 1990s or knew from documents and other sources. At his recent meeting in Baghdad, the Iraqi side committed itself to supplementing the list, and some 80 additional names had been provided.
In the past, much valuable information had come from interviews, he said. To date, 11 individuals had been asked for interviews in Baghdad. The replies had invariably been that the individual would only speak at Iraq's monitoring directorate or in the presence of an Iraqi official. At his recent talks in Baghdad, the Iraqi side committed itself to encourage persons to accept interviews "in private". Despite that, the pattern had not changed. He hoped that further encouragement from the authorities would permit knowledgeable individuals to accept private interviews, in Baghdad or abroad.
On UNMOVIC's capability, he said that in the past two months UNMOVIC had built up its capabilities from nothing to 260 staff members from 60 countries. Furthermore, the roster of inspectors would grow as the training programmes continued. In the past two months, the inspectors had conducted about 300 inspections to more than 230 different sites. Of those, more than 20 had not been inspected before. By the end of December, UNMOVIC began using helicopters, both for the transport of inspectors and for actual inspection work. Those had already proved invaluable in helping to "freeze" large sites by observing the movement of traffic in and around the area. Setting up a field office in Mosul had facilitated rapid inspections of sites in northern Iraq. Plans were under way to establish soon a second field office in the Basra area.
MOHAMED ELBARADEI, Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), began by recalling what had been accomplished during inspections from 1991 to 1998. The Agency's conclusion at that time was that Iraq's nuclear weapons programme had been neutralized, and there was no indication that Iraq had retained any physical capability to produce weapon-usable nuclear material. During the intervening four years of the Agency's absence from Iraq, the IAEA had continued its analytical work to the best of its ability, using satellite imagery and other information. But no remote analysis could replace on-site inspections, and the Agency was, therefore, not able to reach any conclusions about Iraq's compliance with its Council obligations in the nuclear field after December 1998.
Against that backdrop, he continued, when Iraq agreed last September to reopen its doors to inspection, and following the adoption of resolution 1441, which strengthened the IAEA's authority and the inspection process, the first goal of the inspection activities was "reconnaissance". In that phase, the Agency sought to re-establish rapidly its knowledge base of Iraq's nuclear capabilities, to ensure that key facilities had not been reopened, to verify the location of nuclear material and relevant non-nuclear material, and to identify and begin interviewing key Iraqi personnel.
Over the first two months of inspection, good progress had been made in the Agency's knowledge of Iraq's nuclear capabilities, with a total of 139 inspections at some 106 locations to date, he said. The bulk of those inspections had taken place at State-run or private industrial facilities, research centres and universities -- either at locations where Iraq's significant technical capabilities were known to have existed in the past, or at new locations suggested by remote monitoring and analysis. All inspection activities had been carried out without prior notification to Iraq, except where notification was needed to ensure the availability of required support. IAEA inspections had taken -- and would continue to take -- full advantage of the inspection authority granted by resolution 1441. In doing so, the inspectors had been instructed to make every effort to conduct their activities with appropriate professionalism and sensitivity.
While the Agency was continuing to some extent with that reconnaissance work, he said, inspections were now well into the "investigative" phase, with particular emphasis on determining what, if anything, had occurred in Iraq over the past four years relevant to the re-establishment of nuclear capabilities. Those investigative inspections focused on areas of concern identified by other States, facilities identified through satellite imagery as having been modified or constructed since 1998, and other inspections leads identified independently by the IAEA.
In parallel with those inspection activities, the IAEA had been conducting exhaustive analysis of supporting information obtained from various sources, he said. In that context, it had integrated the new information submitted by Iraq -- including its recent declaration -- with the records that had been accumulated between 1991 and 1998 and the additional information that had been compiled through remote monitoring since 1998. The Iraqi declaration was consistent with the Agency's existing understanding of Iraq's pre-1991 nuclear programme. However, it did not provide any new information relevant to certain questions that had been outstanding since 1998 -- in particular, regarding Iraq's progress prior to 1991 related to weapons design and centrifuge development. While those questions did not constitute unresolved disarmament issues, they nevertheless needed further clarification.
In addition to on-site inspections and off-site analysis, IAEA inspectors had employed a variety of tools to accomplish their mission, he noted. Taking advantage of the "signature" of radioactive materials, the Agency had resumed the monitoring of Iraq's rivers, canals and lakes to detect the presence of certain radioisotopes. A broad variety of environmental samples and surface swipe samples had been collected from locations across Iraq and taken to IAEA laboratories for analysis.
The inspectors had also conducted a great number of interviews of Iraqi scientists, managers and technicians -- primarily in the workplace in the course of unannounced inspections -- as a valuable source of information about past and present programmes and activities. The information gained had been helpful in assessing the completeness and accuracy of Iraq's declarations. Resolution 1441 also clearly gave to the IAEA and UNMOVIC the authority to determine the modalities and venues for conducting interviews with Iraqi officials and other persons. The first two individuals whom the IAEA requested to see privately had declined to be interviewed without the presence of an Iraqi government representative. That had been a restricting factor.
Although the Iraqi Government recently had committed itself to encouraging Iraqi officials and other personnel to be interviewed in private when requested, regrettably, the third request, two days ago, for a private interview was again turned down by the interviewee, he said. The IAEA would continue to determine the modalities and locations of the interviews, including the possibility of interviewing Iraqi personnel abroad. He would continue to report to the Council on the Agency's efforts to conduct interviews according to the Agency's preferred modalities and venues, and its degree of success in that regard.
He then summarized some of the findings thus far from the inspection activities. First, the Agency had inspected all of those buildings and facilities that had been identified, through satellite imagery, as having been modified or constructed over the past four years. IAEA inspectors had been able to gain ready access and to clarify the nature of the activities currently being conducted in those facilities. No prohibited nuclear activities had been identified during those inspections.
A particular issue of focus, he noted, had been the attempted procurement by Iraq of high strength aluminium tubes, and the question of whether those tubes, if acquired, could be used for the manufacture of nuclear centrifuges. Iraqi authorities had indicated that their unsuccessful attempts to procure the aluminium tubes related to a programme to reverse engineer conventional rockets. To verify that information, IAEA inspectors had inspected the relevant rocket production and storage sites, taken tube samples, interviewed relevant Iraqi personnel, and reviewed procurement contracts and related documents.
From the Agency's analysis to date, it appeared that the aluminium tubes would be consistent with the purpose stated by Iraq and, unless modified, would not be suitable for manufacturing centrifuges. However, he said the inspectors were still investigating that issue. It was clear, however, that the attempt to acquire such tubes was prohibited under Council resolution 687.
Another area of focus, he said, had been to determine how certain other "dual use" materials had been relocated or used -- that was, materials that could be used in nuclear weapons production but also have other legitimate uses. A fourth focal point had been the investigation of reports of Iraqi efforts to import uranium after 1991. The Iraqi authorities had denied any such attempts. The IAEA would continue to pursue that issue. Currently, however, it did not have enough information, and he would appreciate receiving more. He was also making progress on a number of other issues related, for example, to the attempted importation of a magnet production facility.
Over the next several months, inspections would focus ever more closely on follow-up of specific concerns, as the Agency continued to conduct visits to sites and interviews with key Iraqi personnel. It had begun helicopter operations, which increased the inspectors' mobility and their ability to respond rapidly to new information, and allow wide-scale radiation detection surveys. Laboratory analysis of environmental samplers was continuing, and the Agency would be re-installing air samplers for wide-area environmental monitoring. The Agency would also re-introduce surveillance systems with video cameras in key locations to allow near-real-time remote monitoring of dual-use equipment.
He had begun in the last few weeks to receive more information from States of direct and current value for inspection follow-up. He continued to call on States that had access to such information to provide it to the inspecting organizations, so that the inspection process could be accelerated and additional assurances could be generated.
He had urged Iraq, once again, to increase the degree of its cooperation with the inspection process. In support of the IAEA inspections to date, the Iraqi authorities had provided access to all facilities visited -- including presidential compounds and private residences -- without conditions and without delay. The Iraqi authorities had also been cooperative in making available additional original documentation, in response to requests by IAEA inspectors. In his discussions with Iraqi officials last week in Baghdad, he emphasized the need to shift from passive support -- that is, responding as needed to inspectors' requests -- to proactive support -- that is, voluntarily assisting inspectors by providing documentation, people and other evidence that would assist in filling the remaining gaps in the Agency's information.
The proactive engagement on the part of Iraq would be in its own best interest and was a window of opportunity that might not remain open for very much longer, he said. Iraq should make every effort to be fully transparent -- with a demonstrated willingness to resolve issues rather than requiring pressure to do so. The international community would not be satisfied when questions remained open regarding Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. The world was asking for a high level of assurance that Iraq was completely free from all such weapons, and was already impatient to receive it. The sooner such assistance could be provided by the inspecting organizations, the sooner the prospects of a peaceful resolution would translate into a plausible reality. Inspections were time-consuming, but if successful, could ensure disarmament through peaceful means. The presence of inspectors today continued to serve as an effective deterrent to and insurance against resumption of programmes to develop weapons of mass destructions, even as he continued to look for possible past activities.
To date, the Agency had found no evidence that Iraq had revived its nuclear weapons programme since the elimination of the programme in the 1990s, he stated. However, the Agency's work was steadily progressing and should be allowed to run its natural course. "With our verification system now in place, barring exceptional circumstances, and provided there is sustained proactive cooperation by Iraq, we should be able, within the next few months, to provide credible assurance that Iraq has no nuclear weapons programme. These few months would be a valuable investment in peace because they could help us avoid a war."
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