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Weapons Inspectors Need More Time in Iraq, says ElBaradei - 2003-01-13

The director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says weapons inspectors in Iraq will need several more months to complete their work. IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei ElBaradei reiterated calls for Iraq to more actively cooperate with United Nations weapons inspectors, in order the speed the completion of their work.

"We still need a few months to achieve our mission," he said in Paris. "How long would it take us depends on the cooperation we get from Iraq in terms of documents, in terms of interviews with Iraqi scientists, in terms of physical evidence that has been destroyed."

Mr. ElBaradei said there is a clear incentive for the Iraqi government to work with the inspectors.

"If Iraq cooperates in all respects we can in a year report that conditions are met for the suspension of sanctions," Mr. ElBaradei commented. "But that is something different from our conclusion that Iraq no longer has weapons of mass destruction or nuclear weapons."

Following talks in Paris with Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, Mr. ElBaradei said U.N. Security Council members are beginning to supply intelligence information to U.N. weapons inspectors. He recently told Time magazine that there is a consensus in the intelligence community that Baghdad continues to have nuclear and biological programs.

Mr. ElBaradei also repeated that January 27, when he and the chief weapons inspector Hans Blix are to report to the Security Council, is not any kind of deadline regarding action on Iraq. Mr. ElBaradei also said that members of the Security Council understand this.

The two men are due to visit Baghdad later this week, and they are making separate stops in several other countries before the Iraq visit.

France, which currently presides over the Security Council, continues to press for a diplomatic solution to the standoff with Iraq. A series of public opinion polls, including one published Sunday, indicate most French people are opposed to going to war against Iraq.