Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix and International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohammed ElBaredei have delivered their much anticipated-report on the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Correspondent Jenny Badner has details from the United Nations.
The report is expected to open the next phase of Security Council debate on how to deal next with Iraq.
Mr. Blix's and Mr. ElBaradei's teams have carried out more than 300 searches for biological, chemical and nuclear weapons since a November U.N. resolution resumed the inspection process after a four-year hiatus. Resolution 1441 threatens Iraq with "serious consequences" if it is found in "material breach" and fails to disarm.
The timetable for the inspectors has been the subject of fierce international debate. The United States, backed by Britain, its most ardent ally in the military buildup in the Persian Gulf, have said that "time is running out" for Iraq to disarm.
The three other permanent members of the Security Council, France, China and Russia, along with the upcoming Council president Germany, oppose authorizing military force against Iraq at this time. They favor allowing the inspectors more time to continue their search.
During his remarks prior to the briefing, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan told reporters that he believes the Security Council will allow the inspectors more time to carry out their work, if necessary. "I think if they do need time, they should be given the time to do their work and all of us, the Council, when they sent them in, must have realized that time would be necessary, a reasonable amount of time. I am not saying forever, but they do need time to get the work done," Mr. Annan said.
When asked about comments by U.S. officials that the United States willing to act alone against Iraq if necessary, Mr. Annan emphasized the need for international unity. "I hope as I have said that this unity will be maintained. In my own speech to the Council on the 12th of September I stressed the need of multi-lateralism, the need for Council action, the need for Council legitimacy and that position has not changed," the UN Secretary General said. "I really hope that Iraq will comply and we will be able to get on and disarm Iraq peacefully," he said.
In December, Iraq submitted a 12,000-page declaration of its weapons systems. But Mr. Blix has said that report is incomplete and Iraq should be more proactive in its cooperation with inspectors. He also criticized Iraq for blocking the use of surveillance flights over the entire country.
Mr. Blix also said that Iraq has obtained missile engines, raw materials, and chemical agents in violation of an arms embargo. But the teams have not produced evidence of weapons activity or production facilities banned in 1991.
Mr. ElBaradei, who runs the International Atomic Energy Agency, is responsible for the search for nuclear weapons and has indicated that his team might need more time to do its job.