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 Thursday, 19 December, 2002, 21:33 GMT
Iraq accused of UN violation
UN weapons inspectors
Weapons inspections will continue in Iraq
The US Secretary of State Colin Powell has said Iraq has "totally failed" to meet the requirements of a United Nations Security Council resolution over its weapons declaration.

Mr Powell said that omissions in the document constituted a "material breach" of the resolution, echoing an earlier statement from the US ambassador to the UN, John Negroponte.

It should be obvious that the pattern of systematic holes and gaps in Iraq's declaration is not the result of accidents or editing oversights or technical mistakes

Secretary of State Colin Powell
Mr Powell said that the burden was on Iraq to prove that it did not possess weapons of mass destruction, warning that Baghdad was "well on its way to losing this last chance".

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

Washington had said that if Iraq was found to be in material breach of this resolution it would authorise an immediate attack - although for now the US administration has said it will continue to support the work of the UN inspectors.

'Missed opportunity'

Earlier, the UN's chief weapons inspector Hans Blix and the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed El Baradei, criticised the document too.

"We are consistent in the view that there has been relatively little given in the declaration by way of evidence concerning the programs of weapons of mass destruction," Mr Blix said after the Security Council briefing.

Mr Blix said evidence that weapons that were known to exist in the 1990s had really been destroyed was missing from the document.

Nearly four tons 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

"An opportunity was missed in the declaration to give a lot of evidence. They can still provide it orally but it would have been better if it was in the declaration," Mr Blix added.

Mr Blix said that further analysis would be carried out and inspections would continue in Iraq.

He added that he would return with the head of the IAEA, Mohamed El Baradei, to the Security Council in January.

Iraqi rejection

Iraq's deputy UN Ambassador Mohammed Salmane dismissed the US charges as "baseless," saying:

US soldier in training in Kuwait
The US is preparing for war

"I would like to confirm that the Iraqi declaration is complete and comprehensive." He added that this would be borne out by the inspection being carried out in Iraq.

Mr Powell called Iraq's 12,000 page declaration "a catalogue of recycled information and flagrant omissions".

He added that the declaration was "an attempt to sow confusion and buy time" and that as such it failed to move its relations with the US in a peaceful direction.

Intelligence sharing

Mr Powell said that there were now three steps on how the UN should proceed to address this issue:

  • Continue to audit and examine Iraqi declaration
  • Inspectors should give high priority to interview scientists outside Iraq
  • Inspectors should intensify efforts within Iraq.

He also said that the US would continue to consult with its allies and the Security Council on how to "compel compliance".

Significantly he called on the international community to offer all possible assistance to the inspectors, which the BBC's diplomatic correspondent, Brian Hanrahan, said pointed to the US sharing its intelligence on Iraq with the inspection team.

  The BBC's Matt Frei
"It's difficult to see how conflict can be avoided"
  The BBC's Gavin Hewitt
"On the ground the Iraqis appear to be co-operating"

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See also:

19 Dec 02 | Middle East
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
19 Dec 02 | Americas
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