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Blix: Significant Questions Remain on Iraq's Weapons Program - 2003-01-27

The chief United Nations weapons inspector for Iraq says Baghdad has provided his teams generally good access to its facilities, but that significant questions remain about whether Iraq has destroyed all of its banned weapons of mass destruction.

Chief inspector Blix told the Security Council that Iraq is cooperating in providing access to suspected weapons sites, but that his teams can not account for many of the weapons Baghdad is known to have had in the past.

"Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance not even today, of the disarmament which was demanded of it, and which it needs to carry out to win the confidence of the world," he said.

He also says Baghdad needs to provide a better accounting of its alleged weapons than it did in a 12,000 page declaration it submitted to the United Nations last month.

"Iraq needs to make more effort to ensure that its declaration is currently accurate," he said. "During my recent discussions in Baghdad, Iraq declared that it would make new efforts in this regard."

Iraq denies it has any weapons of mass destruction. But Mr. Blix pointed to still unanswered questions about Iraqi stockpiles of deadly materials including the VX nerve agent as well as anthrax, something Iraq claimed to have destroyed in the past.

"It might still exist," he said. "Either it should be found and destroyed under UNMOVIC supervision, or else convincing evidence should be produced to show that it was indeed destroyed."

Although he stopped short of asking council members for more time for more inspections, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan told reporters he expects the council will, after hearing Monday's reports, decide that inspectors do, in fact, need more time to complete their work.

"A reasonable amount of time, I'm not saying forever but they do need time to get their work done and I suspect the council will allow for that time to be done," he said.

Mohammed ElBaradei, chief of the U.N.'s nuclear monitoring agency did suggest that his work should be allowed to continue for several months saying his teams currently do not have enough information to make final judgments about Iraq's nuclear capabilities.

The United States and Britain continue to argue that Iraq has unaccounted for thousands of weapons and is not fully cooperating with inspectors.

John Negroponte is the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. "In the past few weeks alone, inspectors found 12 chemical warheads that should have been in the declaration but were not," he said. "They also found three thousand pages of secret Iraqi government documents, documents I would note that should have been included in the declaration but were not, hidden in the home of an Iraqi scientist."

Monday's briefing to the Security Council is expected to lead to more debate here because some council members, including France, China and Russia, believe inspectors should be given more time. The Bush administration has not closed the door to that option, but continues to stress it has the authority to take military action against Iraq if it is necessary to disarm the Saddam Hussein.