UN INSPECTORS FOUND NO EVIDENCE OF PROHIBITED WEAPONS PROGRAMMES AS OF 18 MARCH WITHDRAWAL,
HANS BLIX TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL
Says New Environment in Iraq, with Full Access and Cooperation,
Should Allow Establishment of Truth about ‘Unaccounted for’ Items
NEW YORK, 5 June (UN Headquarters) -- Up until they were withdrawn from Iraq on 18 March –- the day before armed action began -- United Nations inspectors had found no evidence of the continuation or resumption of programmes of weapons of mass destruction, Hans Blix told the Security Council this morning, as he briefed them for a final time before stepping down at the end of June as head of the inspection team.
Introducing the thirteenth quarterly report of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), Mr. Blix, the Commission’s Executive Chairman, said significant quantities of proscribed items had also not been found, apart from the Al Samoud 2 missiles, 50 of which had been destroyed under the Commission’s supervision. That did not necessarily mean that such items could not exist. But long lists of items remained unaccounted for and “it is not justified to jump to the conclusion that something exists just because it is unaccounted for”.
The long list of proscribed items unaccounted for had not been shortened by inspections or Iraqi declarations, explanations or documentation, he continued. It was up to Iraq to present items unaccounted for, or present evidence convincing the inspectors that the items did not exist. If that was not done, the international community could not have confidence that past programmes had been terminated. However, “an effective presence of international inspectors would serve as a deterrent against efforts aimed at reactivating or developing new programmes of weapons of mass destruction”, he said.
Although during the last month and a half of inspections the Iraqi side had made considerable efforts to provide information, those efforts had not brought needed answers, he said. There had not been time to interview more than a handful of the large number of persons who were said by Iraq to have participated in the unilateral destruction of biological and chemical weapons in 1991. Such interviews might have helped, but one must be aware that the totalitarian regime in Iraq continued to cast a shadow on the credibility of all interviews.
In the context of destruction of proscribed items, Appendix I of the report showed that the weapons that had been destroyed before inspectors left in 1998 had, in almost all cases, been declared by Iraq and the destruction had occurred before 1994. The existence of the biological weapons programme had been uncovered by the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) in 1995 despite Iraq’s denials. Only a few remnants of that programme had been found. A great deal -- Iraq asserted all – had been unilaterally destroyed in 1991.
He said that, while he was aware of the large amounts of proscribed items that still remained unaccounted for, note should be taken of the fact that for many years neither UNSCOM nor UNMOVIC made significant finds of weapons. The lack of finds could be because the items were unilaterally destroyed by the Iraqi authorities, or else because they were effectively concealed by them. He trusted that, in the new environment in Iraq, in which there was full access and cooperation, and in which knowledgeable witnesses should no longer be inhibited to reveal what they knew, it should be possible to establish the truth “we all want to know”.
Given the media attention to mobile facilities, he said that even before UNMOVIC began its inspections in November 2002, the Commission had received information about such facilities and the inspectors were looking for sites where such mobile units could be hooked up for support services. Upon his request, the Iraqi side had presented some information about mobile systems they possessed. As evident in his report, neither the information presented nor pictures given to the inspectors by the Iraqi side matched the description that had recently been made available to them, as well as to the media, by the United States. At UNMOVIC, he could not, of course, make a proper evaluation of the depicted vehicles on the basis of published material alone.
In resolution 1483 (2003), the Council declared its intention to revisit UNMOVIC’s mandate, he said. The Council was aware that UNMOVIC remained ready to resume work in Iraq as an independent verifier or to conduct long-term monitoring, should the Council so decide. Some reduction of UNMOVIC staff would take place, but the core expertise and experience available within UNMOVIC remained a valuable asset, which the Council could use where the services of an independent body would be required for verification or monitoring. That might be of particular value in the field of biological weapons and missiles, for which there existed no international verification organization.
In conclusion, he noted the strong commitment among nations, both within and outside the Council, to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction -– to terrorists as well as to States -– and to eventually achieve the elimination of those weapons. The case of Iraq had been a major factor in forging that commitment. The wide support that UNMOVIC had received from governments and the public was further testimony to the strong wish to reduce the dangers posed by weapons of mass destruction and to the continued importance of inspection.
After Mr. Blix’s briefing, the Council President, Sergey Lavrov (Russian Federation), taking note of the intention of Mr. Blix to retire from his post at the end of June, expressed sincere gratitude to him for his service and appreciation for the efforts undertaken to implement UNMOVIC’s mandate. He said Council members also paid tribute to Mr. Blix for his leadership and dedicated and professional manner in which he had been guiding the work of UNMOVIC in pursuit of the disarmament of Iraq.
The meeting started at 10:45 a.m. and was adjourned at 11 a.m., after which the Council went into informal consultations to consider the situation between Iraq and Kuwait.
The thirteenth quarterly report of the Executive Chairman of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) was submitted in accordance with Security Council resolution 1284 (1999) of 17 December 1999 (document S/2003/580) and covers the period from 1 March to 31 May.
During that period, the Executive Chairman briefed the Council three times on, respectively, the twelfth quarterly report, the draft work programme required under resolution 1284 (1999), and on the Commission’s readiness to return to Iraq to resume inspections.
On 18 March, the report states, UNMOVIC suspended its inspection activities following the decision of the Secretary-General to withdraw all United Nations staff from Iraq. The armed action started on 19 March and the Coalition has organized units to identify any Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and other proscribed items and to engage in the task of disarming Iraq, which was formerly pursued by UNMOVIC and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The report further states that UNMOVIC headquarters staff remains engaged in analysis of the inspections performed and the updating of site files, subject files and other documentation in the light of the inspection reports. A thorough review is also being undertaken of the voluminous information, which has been provided by Iraq, not least during the period under review in this report. In the coming months, it may also be desirable that this staff engage in summarizing and digesting unique experience gained in such areas as defining dual use materials and monitoring export/import of dual use items.
The findings and experiences of the relevant units established by the Coalition have not been available to the Commission except through public media reports, the report states. Nor have these units or the Coalition requested any information or assistance from the Commission.
In resolution 1483 (2003), adopted on 22 May, the Council reaffirmed the importance of the disarmament of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and of eventual confirmation of the disarmament of Iraq. In operative paragraph 11, it reaffirms that Iraq must meet its disarmament obligations, invites the United Kingdom and the United States to keep the Council informed of their activities in this regard and underlines its intention to revisit the mandates of UNMOVIC and the IAEA, as set forth in several earlier resolutions.
The report says that in the period during which it carried out inspection and monitoring in Iraq, UNMOVIC did not find evidence of the continuation or resumption of programmes of weapons of mass destruction or significant quantities of proscribed items from the period prior to adoption of resolution 687 (1991). Inspections uncovered a small number of undeclared empty chemical warheads, which appear to have been produced prior to 1990. These and a few other proscribed items were destroyed.
Following a determination by the Commission that the Al Samoud 2 missile system exceeded range limits set by the Council and, hence, was proscribed, the Commission implemented a programme for destruction, the report says. Some 70 missiles and associated equipment were destroyed under Commission supervision before its operations were suspended. At that time, a decision by the Commission was pending as to whether the Al Fatah missile system, too, exceeded the ranges set by the Council.
The report finds that the long list of proscribed items unaccounted for, and as such resulting in unresolved disarmament issues, was neither shortened by the inspections nor by Iraqi declarations and documentation. From the end of January the Iraqi side, which until then had shown cooperation on process but not in equal measure on substance, devoted much effort to providing explanations and propose methods of inquiry into issues such as the production and destruction of anthrax, VX and long-range missiles. Despite these efforts, little progress was made in the solution of the issues during the time of UNMOVIC’s operations in Iraq.
To give an example, the report says that extensive evacuations undertaken by the Iraqi side and witnessed by inspectors showed that a large number of R-400 bombs declared to have contained biological agent and to have been unilaterally destroyed in 1999 were, in fact, destroyed. While valuable as pointing to the credibility of some information provided earlier, the operation could not verify the total quantities of biological agent destroyed, and even less the total quantities produced. Another example in the report involves anthrax.
By the time the inspections were suspended, the Commission had performed a number of inspections trying to verify intelligence information that Iraq had mobile units for the production of biological weapons, the report states further. The Iraqi side denied that any such units existed and provided the Commission with pictures of legitimate vehicles, which, they suggested, could have led to the information. None of the vehicles in these pictures look like the trucks recently described and depicted by the relevant units of the Coalition.
The report finds that the Commission was not able, before the suspension of inspections, to complete its inquiry into the Iraq programmes of remotely piloted vehicles and unmanned aerial vehicles, notably to establish whether any of them were designed for the dissemination of chemical or biological weapons or had longer-than-permitted range. Extensive Iraqi information on the programme was sent as late as 19 March.
Concerning the Commission’s readiness for resumed inspection activities, the report states that until the Council revisits its mandate the resolutions, which were guiding until the armed action, will continue to be followed to the extent that they are still relevant and have not been rendered obsolete by resolution 1483 (2003). It is clear that most of the work performed by the Commission until now relating to the “oil-for-food” programme will be phased out and that, as a result, some staff will be released.
A readiness for possible resumed work in Iraq, for example, to confirm findings that may have been made since the end of the Commission’s inspections and/or to perform the task of ongoing monitoring and verification can be maintained with a somewhat smaller staff than the Commission now has at headquarters, thereby reducing costs, the report notes. However, it would be inadvisable to undertake any drastic overall reduction in the present cadre of staff that is fully acquainted with the database and vast archives of the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) and UNMOVIC and has broad knowledge of programmes, sites and relevant persons in Iraq and about the logistics of inspection operations.
The report is divided into the following sections: general review of inspections, including biological, chemical missile, and multidisciplinary inspections; general operational issues, including implementation of the multidisciplinary approach to inspections and air operations and surveillance, overhead imagery, interviews and lists of Iraqi personnel; integration of advanced technologies for inspection; and laboratories and sampling.
A section entitled “Findings through inspections and analysis contains detailed information about the R-400 bombs, cluster munitions, warheads for rockets, remotely piloted vehicles and unmanned aerial vehicles, scud engine components, Iraq’s anthrax destruction study, Iraq’s VX destruction study, mobile chemical and biological weapons production facilities, and information on suppliers provided by Iraq.
The following items are covered under destruction activities: Al Samoud 2 missiles; propellant casting chambers; 155 mm shells filled with mustard; thiodiglycol; 122 mm chemical warheads; chemical equipment; and destruction of biological material.
The report then details the withdrawal of UNMOVIC from Iraq. It also contains a section on other issues, which includes a review of UNMOVIC’s readiness to resume work in Iraq, should the Council so decide, as well as a review of effect of resolution 1483 (2003).
Appended to the report is a section entitled “Destruction, removal or rendering harmless of proscribed items and materials in Iraq, 1991 to 1998”. It contains information on ballistic missiles, chemical and biological weapons, as well as the composition, by country, of the roster of trained inspectors. It also includes graphs depicting the total number of UNMOVIC inspections from 27 November 2002 to 17 March 2003 and the types of sites inspected.
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