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Monday, 9 December, 2002, 11:51 GMT
Iraq dossier under scrutiny
Jacques Baute of IAEA with the Iraqi suitcase of documents
The dossier's nuclear component was sent to Vienna
United Nations weapons experts have begun ploughing through Iraq's massive weapons dossier to assess whether it complies with Security Council resolutions.

Dr Hans Blix, the chief UN weapons inspector, was on hand to receive the 12,000-page document as it arrived at UN headquarters in New York, after being flown in from Baghdad.

Hans Blix
Blix said work will begin immediately
In a surprise decision late on Sunday, the Security Council agreed to give its five permanent members, the United States, Russia, France, China and Britain, full uncensored access to the documents.

It had been expected that Mr Blix's team would first cut out any information on how to build chemical, biological or nuclear weapons before handing them the dossier.

The decision means the US will no longer have to wait to scrutinise the documents itself.

The reason given by the UN for the move is that the five permanent members have the technical expertise to assess the risks involved in releasing the contents to other countries.

Iraq maintains that it is free of weapons of mass destruction, although a senior aide to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein said on Sunday Iraq knew how to build an atomic bomb.

"We have the complete documentation from design to all the other things. We haven't reached the final assembly of a bomb nor tested it," said Lieutenant General Amir al-Saadi.

"It is for the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] to judge how close we were [to building an atomic bomb]," he said.

'Honest account'

Two copies of the chemical, biological and missile components of the dossier arrived at the UN building in New York at 2040 on Sunday (0140GMT Monday).

Iraqi dossiers
Iraq's dossier
  • Contains 12,000 pages in Arabic and English covering Iraq's chemical, biological and nuclear capabilities.
  • 2,100 page nuclear component being studied by IAEA in Vienna.
  • Declaration to be examined first by five nuclear powers on Security Council.

    See also:

  • Lt Gen al-Saadi said the dossier, covering 800 sites, was an "honest, truthful and comprehensive" account of Iraq's weapons programmes.

    It had been thought that Dr Blix would first have the document analysed by his experts, edited to take out any potentially dangerous material like the details of Iraqi work on a nuclear bomb and only then handed over to members of the Security Council.

    However, Security Council resolution 1441 says that the Council should get the declaration along with the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (Unmovic) and the IAEA.

    A compromise appears to have been reached under which the five permanent members, who already possess nuclear bombs, are getting the full version.

    The Security Council president said a working version of the dossier will be produced for wider distribution as soon as possible.

    The nuclear component of the dossier has been sent to the headquarters of the IAEA in Vienna.

    'Compelling evidence'

    The US insists it has evidence that Iraq does have weapons of mass destruction.

    The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Bob Graham, is calling the evidence compelling, but neither he nor the White House is coming any closer to revealing what that evidence is.

    Mr Graham said it would be a strategic decision comparable in importance to the decision by the Kennedy administration to provide photographic evidence during the Cuba missile crisis 40 years ago.

    Responding to questions about US and UK allegations, Lt Gen al-Saadi said:

    "Let them come up with it, give it to the IAEA, give it to Unmovic. They are here - they could check it. Why play this game?"

    Another contingent of 25 inspectors from Unmovic arrived in Baghdad on Sunday, more than doubling the existing team.

    The UN have also brought in a helicopter to help them cover much more of this vast country, says the BBC's Ben Brown in Baghdad.

    On Sunday inspectors visited a geological research facility in central Baghdad.

    Biological and chemical experts went to the Fallugah complex where Iraq produced chemical and biological arms in the past.

    The BBC's Mike Sergeant
    "Now the UN has the task of sifting through the mountain of evidence"
    UN Secretary General Kofi Annan
    "War is not inevitable and it is up to Saddam Hussein to cooperate fully with inspectors"
    Khalid al Duwaisan, Kuwaiti ambassador to the UK
    "We hope there won't be war because we were the victims in 1990"
    Iraq: Is war inevitable?



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    09 Dec 02 | Middle East
    08 Dec 02 | Asia-Pacific
    07 Dec 02 | Middle East
    08 Dec 02 | Middle East
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