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Blix Gets France's Support for Iraq Weapons Inspection Mission - 2002-11-16

The United Nations chief weapons inspector Hans Blix stopped in Paris Saturday on his way to Iraq. Inspection of Iraqi sites for weapons of mass destruction is scheduled to begin November 27. The French gave Mr. Blix their complete support and advised Iraq to honor it's commitment.

After meeting with French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, Mr. Blix said he would be in Baghdad Monday for a couple of days of preliminary discussions with Iraqi officials.

The first weapons inspectors are expected to arrive in Iraq on November 26, with inspections to begin the following day. Mr. Blix emphasized the group of inspectors will not be predominantly American.

"We have something like over 200 people trained and we have a little over 30 Americans who are among the people who will be our inspectors," he said. "The French group, I think, is the next biggest and then the Russians. We have about 45 nationalities represented in the same kind of mix as any other U.N. organization where you seek a broad geographical representation."

Mr. Villepin said the ball was now in Iraq's court. Since it had accepted the new U.N. resolution and would be admitting the weapons inspectors, he said, it needed to respect all its obligations and allow a thorough and rapid inspection of sites.

While France expects Iraq to play by the rules and has strongly endorsed the inspection mission, it also wanted to know how Mr. Blix will deal with what he finds in Iraq.

Mr. Blix has said he wants effective inspectors, not provocative ones. And he says he will not make any judgments about whether Iraq is in compliance with U.N. resolutions, he will simply report his findings back to the Security Council.

France wants to be sure that any Iraqi non-compliance with U.N. resolutions is sufficiently serious to warrant further action.