Sat, Dec 21, 2002 - Page 1 News List

UN's Blix asks US to release arms evidence

FRUSTRATION The chief UN weapons inspector said Washington and London had to give his team more data, as British PM Tony Blair told troops to prepare for war

AFP , LONDON

A US airman climbs atop an EA/6B-Prowler radar-jamming plane at Incirlik Airbase, near the Turkish city of Adana, on Thursday. US and allied warplanes have flown from the airbase to patrol a no-fly zone over northern Iraq since the Gulf War in 1991.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Britain and the US are not providing enough intelligence to UN inspectors about sites in Iraq where they claim Baghdad is hiding weapons of mass destruction, chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix said yesterday.

"The most important thing that governments like the US or the UK could give us would be to tell us the sites where they are convinced that they [Iraq[ keep some weapons of mass destruction. This is what we want to have," Blix said in an interview with the BBC.

"We get a lot of briefings about what they believe that Iraq has, but what we need to have is an indication of the place where such things are stored," he said.

The US and Britain, the two countries pushing most strongly for a war in Iraq, claim Baghdad has committed a "material breach" of the latest UN disarmament resolution by omitting key information from its weapons dossier submitted to the UN earlier this month.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair yesterday delivered a direct message to British forces to be prepared for action against Iraq if President Saddam Hussein fails to comply with UN demands to disarm.

"The key thing at the moment is to make all the preparations necessary, and to make sure that we are building up the capacity in the region," Blair told the British Forces Broadcasting Service.

"At the moment we simply don't know whether the inspectors will find the breach or not," he said.

But "the only circumstances in which Iraq will cooperate properly is if whatever UN resolution we have is backed up by the potential use of force," Blair said.

"Sometimes the best way of avoiding war is to be prepared for war if you have to have it," he said.

In a briefing on Thursday to the UN Security Council on Iraq's 12,000-page declaration, Blix said there was "a lack of supporting evidence" for its claim that it has no chemical, biological or nuclear arms.

Asked in the BBC interview yesterday about what access his inspectors had been given to US and British intelligence, he said: "Not very much, not yet. I hope we will and now that we are in full operation I hope it will come."

"They have the methods to listen to telephone conversations, they have spies, satellites, etc. So they have a lot of sources which we don't have," he said.

The Times newspaper reported yesterday that Britain will seek explicit UN approval for war on Iraq in a second resolution at the end of January if arms inspections show Saddam is in breach of UN demands.

"If you are sure that they have something which they haven't disclosed, it is not full disclosure. The question is do you have evidence to show that. The UK feels yes, the US says also yes. We say we don't know. It may be full disclosure or it may not be," Blix said.

Discussions on the matter in London and Washington had been "encouraging," he added.

The specter of war in the Gulf was looming large after US Secretary of State Colin Powell declared that Iraq was in "material breach" of its obligations.

Having earlier labeled Iraq's arms dossier mandated by the UN Security Council its "last chance" to come clean on weapons of mass destruction, Powell dismissed the Iraqi declaration as "a catalogue of recycled information and flagrant omissions."

He added: "These are material omissions that, in our view, constitute another material breach."

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