Tue, Feb 03, 2004 - Page 6 News List

UN weapons inspector says Iraq sanctions worked

AFP , WASHINGTON

UN sanctions against Iraq and weapons inspections "disarmed" former president Saddam Hu-ssein's regime, the UN's chief nuclear weapons inspector said in a magazine interview on published Sunday.

"I think the sanctions worked, and more importantly, the inspections worked," Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told Newsweek. "A combination of sanctions and inspections managed to disarm Iraq."

ElBaradei's comments come as the US is considering an independent investigation into the US intelligence failure on Iraq's suspected chemical, biological and nuclear weapons program.

The Iraq Survey Group, a US team searching for Iraq's suspected weapons, has not found any stockpiles of banned weapons.

"I think eventually we'll have to go back, as we are the ones who, frankly, have the credibility to say they do or do not have [a nuclear program] because we are impartial," he said.

The UN's weapons inspectors left Baghdad shortly before the US invaded Iraq without the backing of the UN Security Council.

"Before the war, Iraq, at least in our area, was cooperating with us, trying its best to help. But it was too late," ElBaradei said.

"I am worried because they still have a lot of people with the know-how and the technology," he said. "So I'd like to do some ongoing monitoring and verification in Iraq for a few years before we say this chapter is closed."

Asked about the nuclear intentions of North Korea and Iran, the two countries President George W. Bush grouped with Iraq in the "axis of evil," ElBaradei said his "gut feeling" is that North Korea has a nuclear capability.

"They probably have enough plutonium to make a few bombs," he said.

He continued, "This is a country that is completely beleaguered, isolated, has nothing to lose and has a weapons capability. ... We need to provide them security and humanitarian assistance, and in return make sure that we dismantle their weapons program."

In Iran, he said, "we haven't seen concrete evidence that Iran's [nuclear] program is linked to a weapons program."

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