The United Nations expects to receive in New York by late Sunday a declaration by Iraq of its weapons programs, after Iraqi officials hand over the required documents Saturday to U.N. inspectors in Baghdad. But no hard information on the contents is likely to be released before next week.
The process of deciphering Iraq's weapons declaration is expected to be a technical nightmare. Chief inspector Hans Blix anticipates thousands of documents - as many as 10,000 - with detailed information related to banned weapons of mass destruction. Some of it will arrive here in English, but most of it will likely be in Arabic. Mr. Blix says he has a team of translators on hand.
In a meeting with the Security Council Friday, Mr. Blix told members they will not get any data on the Iraqi documents until his experts have had a chance to assess the information. He says he will not meet with the Council until Tuesday at the earliest to give members a preliminary report.
Mr. Blix apparently will not be turning over all the data contained in the Iraqi papers. He says if the information, for example, contains recipes for producing biological or chemical weapons, this is something that should be kept confidential.
"All the governments on the Council are aware that they should not have access to anything that anyone else does not have access to," he said. "So if any parts would be proliferation-prone, none of them would like to have it. But we, of course, will have to report to the Council the criteria upon which we are advising that we should withhold any parts."
Mr. Blix again called on governments, primarily the United States and Britain, who say they have evidence on Iraqi weapons programs, to give him the information, especially if it identifies specific sites.
"...because we are inspectors. We can go to sites. They may be listening to what is going on in the ether, and they may have a lot of other sources of information. But we can go to the sites, legitimately and legally," he said.
Meanwhile, Iraq continues to insist that it does not have any of the banned weapons. Iraq's U.N. ambassador Mohammed Aldouri.
"The inspectors are now in Iraq. We are cooperating fully with them. They have full access anywhere in Iraq," he said. "So, if the Americans have this evidence, they have to tell the inspectors in Iraq to go and find this evidence. We are saying they would find nothing."
The task of unraveling all that complex weapons information from Baghdad is about to begin. No one here will say anything much beyond hoping that everything in the Iraqi documents will be satisfactory.