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Published: 30 Jan 2003
|Iraq accuses Blix of misrepresentations|
|Iraq responded to chief weapons inspector Hans Blix's tough
assessment of its disarmament, accusing him of misrepresenting its
record of compliance, offering some new information and pledging
In a seven-page letter released Wednesday, Iraq took issue with Blix's assessment that after 12 years it has still not come to "a genuine acceptance" of its obligation to eliminate its nuclear, chemical, biological and long-range missile weapons programs.
Iraq declared that "it is unfortunate to pronounce such a political judgment after two months of unprecedented cooperation by Iraq" with UN inspectors.
The letter said Blix's report to the Security Council on Monday "was short in its description of Iraq's cooperation and long in references to unsubstantiated claims, presumptions and misrepresentations of Iraq's record of compliance."
But Blix's spokesman, Ewen Buchanan, said the chief inspector's 60-day assessment was "objective, balanced and factual."
Iraq is under intense pressure to demonstrate that it is fully cooperating with UN inspectors, with the United States threatening a new war if Baghdad doesn't provide evidence quickly regarding its weapons programs and efforts to dismantle them.
Russia's UN Ambassador Sergey Lavrov, whose country is Iraq's most important council supporter, said the letter was a sign of "more active" cooperation by Iraq with inspectors - and reinforced Moscow's belief that the inspections should continue.
"All indications are that that we have a successful process of inspections, which is bringing results," he said.
Iraq's UN Ambassador Mohammed Al-Douri gave out copies of the letter, which covers 15 issues ranging from the destruction of biological weapons to the recent discovery of empty chemical warheads for 122 mm rockets and a visit to a mosque by UN inspectors.
Despite Iraq's criticism of Blix's report, the letter ends with Baghdad expressing "its firm resolve to continue its cooperation" with UN inspectors. But it concluded with a warning "against attempts of the United States to use the inspection process in its aggressive policy against Iraq and the region."
In the letter, Iraq said that following the inspectors' discovery this month of the chemical warheads, it is searching hundreds of munitions stores for similar warheads or other banned material, but so far has not turned up anything.
Blix's report said the rockets were discovered in a relatively new bunker, which means they must have been moved in the past few years when Iraq should not have had such munitions. The discovery could be "the tip of a submerged iceberg," he said.
Iraq claimed in the letter that the rockets were found in a shed built in the early 1980s and had not been moved for over 12 years.
Iraq suggested joint testing on the stability of the rocket motors, which it said will show that the rockets are useless.
On the issue of reconnaissance flights for the UN inspectors by American U-2 spy planes that Blix wants to start, Iraq said it has dropped a request for radar systems at the Mosul and Basra airports. Iraq had wanted the radar systems to track the U-2 planes, saying it was worried the flights might interfere with air safety.
It also said the safety of U-2 flights over the "no-fly zones in northern and southern Iraq, which are enforced by US and British aircraft, remains an issue. Iraq has said it fears the unannounced flights might confuse Iraqi air defenses.
In the letter, Iraq countered Blix's contention that Baghdad provided little evidence to back its claim that it destroyed all biological weapons unilaterally in 1991. Iraq said its declarations on the unilateral destruction "were supported with important and indisputable evidence," which was either dismissed or ignored by former chief weapons inspector Richard Butler.
Buchanan, Blix's spokesman, said Iraq did provide "some limited evidence," but it was impossible for inspectors to determine how much had been destroyed. "The question of how much Iraq produced, and whether it destroyed it all as it claims, is very much open," he said.
In his report, Blix challenged Iraq's declarations on its production of anthrax and deadly VX nerve agent. Iraq responded in the letter that it's up to the inspectors to present their new evidence "and not to play hide and seek with Iraq." But Buchanan said: "It is not for us to reveal our hand, but for Iraq to give us honest declarations. The onus is on them. We believe that Iraq can present more evidence on its VX program." Buchanan expressed surprise that Iraq again raised the visit to a mosque by several U.N. inspectors, which he insists was a sightseeing excursion. A Muslim cleric last week accused the inspectors of violating the sanctity of the mosque and said they had searched the building.
The Iraqi letter called the visit "a deliberate inspection without proper procedure," claiming the inspectors had asked whether the mosque had a basement "and other less than touristic questions." "We wonder," Buchanan responded, "what motives they have for bringing these things up again in a distorted fashion." Iraq also strongly objected to Blix's assessment that it was cooperating on procedures and practical arrangements such as providing access, but not on substance.
"Cooperation extended by Iraq ... continues to be much more than opening doors," it said - Sapa-AP.