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 Thursday, 19 December, 2002, 18:04 GMT
'Little new' in Iraq declaration
Iraqi soldiers parade in front of Saddam statue in Baghdad
Iraq's commitment to disarm is being tested
Chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix has said there is little new information in Iraq's weapons declaration.

"There is a good bit of information about non-arms related activities. Not much information about the weapons," he said before delivering his official report to the UN Security Council.

Hans Blix arrives at the UN in New York
Mr Blix has made his report to the Council

What was missing was evidence that weapons that were known to exist in the 1990s had really been destroyed.

The UK ambassador to the UN, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, said after the briefing that the document contained "serious omissions".

"The declaration is inadequate", he said, calling it "deeply disappointing".

But Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's chief scientific adviser said Baghdad was "not worried" about Mr Blix's reaction.

The advisor, Amir al-Saadi said that while little in the document would be news to the weapons inspectors, it did contain information the Security Council had not seen before.

He added that it was a sign of Iraq's compliance with the UN-mandated weapons regime that its declaration contained no new information.

"There is nothing that [the UN] doesn't know about Iraq's weapons programme, full stop," he said.

US reaction

The United States is unlikely to be impressed by Baghdad's defence of its declaration.

The Bush administration is reported to have decided already that it is not satisfied with the Iraqi document and is only hesitating about when to declare Iraq in "material breach" of UN resolution 1441.

Washington says such a finding would automatically authorise it to launch an attack.

Syria is protesting the flagrant discrimination of which the non-permanent members of the UN Security Council have been the object

Official Syrian news agency Sana

Shortly before Mr Blix began his Security Council briefing, Syria announced that it would not participate in the session as a protest against receiving an incomplete copy of the text of Iraq's weapons document.

Only the five permanent members of the Security Council - China, France, Russia, the UK and the US - were given the complete document, with the 10 rotating members, including Syria, receiving an edited version.

Considered response

Washington is to issue its first considered response to the declaration after the Mr Blix makes his report.

He reportedly will tell the Security Council that Iraq's co-operation with his inspectors has been good, but that the declaration contains mostly information that the UN knew when inspections stopped in 1998.

The US and UK have already sharply criticised the document, saying it is riddled with falsehoods and omissions.

Nearly four tonnes of VX nerve agents
Growth media for 20,000 litres of biological warfare agents
15,000 shells for use in biological warfare
6,000 chemical warfare bombs
Nuclear information

Syria has already handed back its incomplete copy of the document, saying that it will not be drawn into discussions unless it is privy to the 12,000 pages of the full version of the text.

Sections containing sensitive information, such as details on the manufacture of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons, were removed for the version given to non-permanent members, leaving a document of about 3,500 pages.

Baghdad was obliged to produce the document by the Security Council resolution aimed at answering questions about its weapons programme.

Lack of optimism

US Secretary of State Colin Powell said on Wednesday that he was not optimistic that Iraq would co-operate with demands to disarm, and that he believed other Security Council members felt the same way.

"Our analysis of the Iraqi declaration to this point... shows problems with the declaration, gaps, omissions - and all of this is troublesome," Mr Powell said.

UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq al-Sharaa
The UK and Syria are at odds over Iraq
He and the US Ambassador to the UN, John Negroponte, are to deliver the official US response in Washington and New York respectively.

UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw also criticised the Iraqi declaration, saying it was not "the full and complete" version demanded by the UN Security Council.

"This will fool nobody," Mr Straw said. "If Saddam persists in this obvious falsehood, it will become clear that he has rejected the pathway to peace."

Prime Minister Tony Blair said that Britain would give its formal response to the declaration after Christmas.

The UK and US statements sparked widespread unease among other Council members, some of whom are reported to be unhappy that the two allies spoke out before Mr Blix.

Resolution 1441 warns Baghdad of "serious consequences" if it fails to comply with UN disarmament demands, and it led to the return of weapons inspectors to Iraq.

  The BBC's Allan Little
"Hans Blix seems to be signalling that Baghdad will have to do better than this if it is to avoid war"
  Amir al-Saadi , Iraqi presidential adviser
"There is nothing that they can pin on us"
  Farouq al-Sharaa, Syrian foreign minister
"Anyone launching a war against a country like Iraq would expect catastrophic consequences"

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See also:

19 Dec 02 | Middle East
19 Dec 02 | Middle East
18 Dec 02 | Middle East
18 Dec 02 | Europe
18 Dec 02 | Politics
17 Dec 02 | Middle East
17 Dec 02 | Middle East
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