The United Nations' top weapons inspectors told the Security Council Thursday, there are no indications yet that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction. But, the weapons inspectors said Baghdad has left too many questions unanswered.
The weapons inspectors say six weeks of inspections have thus far been carried out without incident, and their efforts are "inching forward." But they say they are not satisfied with the 12,000 page weapons declaration Iraq issued November 27, because it failed to clarify many important issues.
Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency, said Iraqi assertions that many weapons and documents have been destroyed are not sufficient.
"We have told them that, if you cannot produce documents, at least you should be able to produce people who have participated in that destruction process, or at least provide residues of the destructive items that were destroyed," he said. "We cannot just simply take their word for it, that this item has been destroyed, and we do not have a document, because then, we cannot provide the [UN Security] Council any degree of certainty that that item has been destroyed."
Mr. ElBaradei said such questions will continue to undermine the inspections, unless Baghdad comes forward with convincing evidence of destruction. He pointed out he told Security Council members that suspicions that Iraq was using aluminum tubes to enrich uranium to produce nuclear arms appear to be incorrect. He said the team has concluded that Baghdad is using the tubes for the production of rockets.
Mr. ElBaradei went on to say Iraq has not sufficiently cooperated with the inspection team's access to Iraqi scientists, and it may become necessary to interview scientists outside of Iraq.
Hans Blix, the chief weapons inspector, said the presence of government operatives is undermining the inspection team's interviews with scientists.
"We carry out a lot of interviews," he said. "Frequently, minders are present. They are not useless. However, Iraq is a totalitarian country. We do not want people intimidated, and that has happened in the past. We are ready to use the options we can, but at the same time we cannot force any individual to speak, go abroad or defect."
The chief inspectors return to Iraq January 19. They are to present the Security Council with a detailed report January 27. Both made clear that they disagree with the view put forth by the United States that the January 27 report represents a deadline for Iraq. But they said it is incumbent upon Iraq to show that it is fully complying with inspections, before the patience of the Security Council wears out.