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Blix:  With Saddam Gone, Weapons Verification Should Be Possible - 2003-06-05

Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix told the Security Council Thursday that it should be possible to learn the truth about Iraq's weapons, now that Saddam Hussein has been ousted. Mr. Blix delivered his final report to the U.N. Security Council, just weeks before he is scheduled to retire.

Mr. Blix says, with Saddam Hussein gone, effective weapons verification should be possible in Iraq.

"I trust that in the new environment in Iraq, in which there is full access and cooperation, and in which knowledgeable witnesses should no longer be inhibited to reveal what they know, it should be possible to establish the truth we all want to know," he said.

In delivering his final report, Mr. Blix told the council that Iraq could have effectively concealed suspected weapons, or it could have dismantled them.

'This does not necessarily mean that such items could not exist," he said. They might - there remain long lists of items unaccounted for - but it is not justified to jump to the conclusion that something exists just because it is unaccounted for."

Mr. Blix says he is disappointed that his weapons inspection teams, which were pulled out ahead of the U.S.-led war in Iraq, did not have the chance to complete their task. And, he called on the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq to take advantage of U.N. weapons experts.

Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte says the coalition is intensifying its efforts to locate Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and interview Iraqi officials and scientists now in custody. He said Washington is confident that evidence of weapons of mass destruction will be found.

He says some U.N. inspectors are working with the coalition, and the Security Council will revisit the mandate of the inspection unit, known as UNMOVIC (UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission).

Although a small team of U.N. nuclear arms experts is expected in Baghdad, Mr. Negroponte says the United States is determined that the coalition lead the search for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, which he refers to as WMDs.

"Resolution 1483 talks about the possibility of revisiting the role of UNMOVIC in the future, but for the time being, we have undertaken this mission of searching for WMDs, and I would expect that situation to continue for the foreseeable future," he said. British Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock said that Britain has not ruled out a role for UNMOVIC. The majority of the Security Council wants U.N. arms experts to verify that Iraq is free of weapons of mass destruction.