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Blix: No New Evidence in Iraqi Documents - 2003-02-10

Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix says more active cooperation, not more weapons inspectors, is needed to verify Iraq's claim that it has no weapons of mass destruction. He said that new documents provided by Iraq do not contain new evidence.

Mr. Blix told the Reuters news agency he saw no new evidence in documents handed over by Iraqi officials following two days of meetings in Baghdad.

Speaking in Athens, Mr. Blix said Iraq provided some papers, which focused on new issues, but not new evidence. Even so, the chief arms inspector said he welcomed the fact that Baghdad is focusing on what he describes as "real open issues."

But while Germany and France have discussed the idea of tripling the number of weapons inspectors in Iraq, Mr. Blix said the problem of verification is not the number of inspectors, but the lack of "active cooperation" from Iraq.

Mr. Blix and the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, met with Iraqi officials Saturday and Sunday regarding several unresolved issues, including the use of U-2 spy planes in the hunt for banned weapons.

Iraqi officials said Sunday it is likely such flights will be allowed, and promised to advise the senior inspectors of their decision before Friday, when the two men are scheduled to brief the U.N. Security Council.

The two chief weapons inspectors indicated they had seen, what Mr. ElBaradei called, the "beginning of a change of heart" from Baghdad in cooperating with the arms inspectors. Mr. Blix said he is "cautiously optimistic" after seeing what he described as a new "positive attitude" in Baghdad.

Mr. Blix also said Iraq has offered to drill into the ground to prove it has destroyed and disposed of banned chemical, biological, and missile materials.

A Baghdad a newspaper owned by one of Saddam Hussein's sons, said Iraq is providing what it called the "highest levels of positive cooperation" with the inspection teams. The newspaper called for the inspectors to "block" those who are calling for war and allow the inspection process to continue.

Meanwhile, inspectors traveled to at least 10 suspected weapons sites. More than 400 inspections have taken place since they resumed on November 27 of last year.