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UN Inspectors Say US Refuses to Cooperate on Iraq Weapons Probe - 2004-03-02


United Nations arms inspectors say the United States is refusing to cooperate with U.N. efforts to account for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. U.N. inspectors declared themselves ready to resume in-country operations as soon as the Security Council gives the go-ahead.

The U.N. weapons inspection commission, known as UNMOVIC, says it is receiving no official information on work being done by U.S. inspectors in Iraq. Nor have inspectors from the U.S.-led Iraq Survey Group asked for any help from the commission.

The complaint is contained in the commission's quarterly report, issued Tuesday.

U.S.-led inspection teams continue to operate in Iraq, while U.N. inspectors were pulled out before the war last year. U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard says the UNMOVIC team's work is limited mostly to doing studies and inventories. "UNMOVIC staff continue to work on a number of ongoing projects, notably a compendium of Iraq's past proscribed weapons programs," he said.

That project involves an analysis of how Iraq gradually developed weapons of mass destruction from 1973 to 1991.

The UNMOVIC report says U.N. inspectors took note of former Iraq Survey Group leader David Kay's Senate testimony in January. Mr. Kay concluded that it is not likely Iraq had large stockpiles of chemical or biological weapons.

The U.N. inspectors, in their report, expressed hope that another Survey Group report due late this month would be made available to them.

A U.S. diplomat Tuesday confirmed that Survey Group documents had not been shared with U.N. inspectors. He pointed out, however, that the documents are publicly available.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan declined to comment on the U.N. report, except to suggest that the U.S. and U.N. teams have been duplicating efforts, both before and after the war.

"The intelligence that this administration had, the intelligence that the United Nations had, the intelligence that members of Congress had, all led everyone to the same conclusion, that Saddam Hussein's regime was a threat and was a danger. That was very clear," he said.

The UNMOVIC report says U.N. inspectors are ready to resume operations in Iraq when requested to do so by the Security Council.

But French Ambassador Jean Marc de La Sabliere, who holds the council presidency this month, told reporters Tuesday he does not foresee any further resolutions on Iraq before the June 30 deadline for the handover of power to a transitional government.