Skip to comments.Weapons Inspectors to Meet Iraqis
Posted on 09/30/2002 1:34:34 AM PDT by ATOMIC_PUNK
Weapons Inspectors to Meet Iraqis
U.N. Weapons Inspectors to Lay Down Demands to Iraq About Regaining Access to Restricted Sites
UNITED NATIONS Sept. 29 U.N. weapons inspectors, who on Monday will lay down demands to Iraq about getting back into the country, may not get the unfettered access demanded by the United States unless the Security Council alters a deal made in 1998.
The inspectors are dusting off old equipment, ordering helicopters and testing new technology as the United States negotiates a new proposal for their return.
The Bush administration dismissed Iraq's offer earlier this month to accept the inspectors' unconditional return under previous U.N. resolutions. Instead, it wants a tough new resolution completely redesigning the inspections regime and the powers inspectors would have to enter Saddam Hussein's palaces, block his movements and break in on closed facilities during their hunt for weapons.
"This resolution that we're working on has to give the inspectors all the access they need and there cannot be any conditions on presidential sites or sensitive sites, that just can't happen," one U.S. official said.
Hans Blix, the chief U.N. weapons inspector, and Jacques Baute, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency's nuclear team, on Monday begin two days of talks with Iraqi experts in Vienna, Austria, to arrange for the inspectors' return.
The Iraqis are supposed to bring a backlog of reports listing items they possess which could have military purposes. The lists must disclose the locations and current uses for those items.
"We're certainly aware of what happened last time," said Melissa Fleming, spokeswoman for the Vienna-based IAEA. "But we uncovered Iraq's secret nuclear program and we dismantled it. If we get unfettered access, we will be successful again."
Although they have not been inside Iraq since December 1998, international inspectors are certain Iraq has a biological weapons program.
Some experts also believe that, despite 12 years of sanctions in place since Iraq invaded Kuwait and lobbed Scud missiles at Israel and Saudi Arabia, Saddam is ready to build a nuclear bomb if he gets enough weapons-grade uranium or plutonium.
Britain said last week that Iraq has a growing arsenal of chemical and biological weapons capable of being launched within 45 minutes. Washington also has claimed Iraq has ties to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terror network.
But unless they are on the ground, inspectors say there is no way to know just how quickly Iraq is resuscitating its programs.
When U.N. inspectors first arrived in Baghdad in the aftermath of the 1991 Persian Gulf War, they were a powerful, almost untouchable force. Operating like commandos outfitted with a fleet of helicopters and all-terrain vehicles, they launched surprise inspections across the Iraqi desert, uncovering ballistic missiles and VX nerve gas.
Helped by hundreds of cameras and air sniffers installed at over 750 sites, they got Iraq to admit to a biological weapons program and were able to tightly monitor materials that could be used for military purposes.
While over 120 people worked in the field, hundreds of experts and analysts in New York and Vienna pored over their findings and swapped intelligence with select governments chiefly the United States.
But the operation began to unravel by 1996 as Iraq and the inspections teams faced off over access and transparency. Inspectors accused Iraq of violating resolutions and refusing to cooperate with some inspections.
The Iraqis accused inspectors of the same, pointing to wording in resolutions calling on monitors to respect the country's sovereignty.
The inspectors also complained they were spied on while Iraq claimed the entire operation was a front for U.S. intelligence.
In an effort to keep the operation afloat and avoid another war in Iraq, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan cut a deal with Baghdad in early 1998 restricting inspectors' access to eight so-called presidential sites encompassing a total of 12 square miles.
The United States and the rest of the Security Council endorsed the plan but, within weeks, the inspectors said they were finding very little other than frustration. After months of cat-and-mouse games, Saddam sent the entire team packing in November 1998.
Then, after a brief return to Baghdad, the inspectors reported Iraqi noncompliance and left the country in December 1998 ahead of punishing U.S. and British airstrikes.
Since then, many former inspectors have maintained that the only way to disarm Iraq would be to reinstate some of the inspectors' earlier freedoms.
U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, say their proposal does just that by nullifying the restrictions on presidential sites.
Saddam would have seven days to agree to the terms of the resolution or face military action. He would then have another 23 days to report his entire arsenal, under the proposal.
The draft resolution would then authorize inspectors to designate "no-fly" and "no-drive" zones around areas scheduled for inspection.
The resolution also would end the Iraqi practice of assigning government guides to accompany inspectors.
Former inspectors have long argued that the presence of so-called government minders undermined efforts to successfully interrogate Iraqi scientists and others with intimate knowledge of weapons programs.
Much of the U.S. draft resolution is based on a position paper written in August by the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The 64-page position paper advocates "coercive inspections" carried out under the immediate threat of military action aimed at Saddam's removal if he fails to cooperate.
A critical element of the endowment's paper calls for the Bush administration to forswear unilateral military action as long as Iraq appears to be complying with inspections.
The draft resolution, written in Washington with British support, has not yet been made public but details were disclosed Friday while the administration lobbied for support from France, Russia and China the other permanent members of the Security Council who oppose threatening force before inspectors return.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Associated Press Writer William J. Kole contributed to this report from Vienna, Austria.
On the Net:
U.N. inspections team http://www.unmovic.org
International Atomic Energy Agency http://www.iaea.org
Iraqi government http://www.uruklink.net/iraq
This I did not know. Thanks for the informative post.
Iraq won't cooperate but will continue all efforts to stall an attack. The question isn't whether we'll attack but when IMO.