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 Tuesday, 14 January, 2003, 16:50 GMT
Transcript: Hans Blix interview
Hans Blix
Hans Blix: "I think that all have reservations about war"
The BBC's Lyse Doucet interviewed the United Nations chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, starting with a question about whether he felt under pressure from the world community, especially the United States and Britain. Here is a transcript of the interview.

Hans Blix: The resolution that was adopted last autumn in November did not set any particular end of the work. But we are governed by an earlier resolution that was adopted at the end of '99, and under that we report every quarter to the (UN) Security Council and we will also anticipate to submit to the council towards the end of March a list of what we regard as key remaining disarmament tasks.

I will not turn in any report for a political purpose

So we are still intent to do that, unless of course the council want to take a decision that would change the situation completely.

Lyse Doucet: You're giving a very calm assessment of your calendar, but the reality is that you are under considerable pressure from the world community and in particular the US and Britain to come up with the goods, are you not?

HB: Well, the US actually (holds) the view that it is the Iraqis who have to come up with the goods - with a smoking gun. They say - and I think rightly - that we are there to verify and Iraq is to declare, and they are to provide verifiable evidence. We're not supposed to chase around the country in search of hidden material.

LD: But that's what you're doing, are you not? You are chasing around the country looking for hidden material.

HB: We do monitor all over the country, and at the same time we look for anything that may (be) hidden - that is true. This has a great value in itself because, as we found out, over the whole country that transparency increases.

Of course, we cannot guarantee that we may... find underground or mobile installations, unless we have very good intelligence. But there is a great value in being sure that big Iraqi industries - whether in armament or petro-chemicals, or whether they have a research capacity in biology - that this is being monitored, and that one is assured that these big installations are not used for weapons production.

Military build-up

LD: But do you deny that all this political pressure is getting in the way of your work? You're not a politician or a military general.

HB: I'm actually a lawyer originally. But we have all these scientists and people in biology, chemistry and missiles working for us, while the pressure is building up around the American mobilisation of troops around Iraq and the statement that they are determined to come to the bottom of the barrel one way or the other.

But, we are doing our best... we have entered Iraq faster and earlier than the Security Council demanded and we have had a very accelerated build-up and (are) reaching a larger part of the country.

So I don't think it has got any dissatisfaction at all in the Security Council with the build-up that we have done. But of course, that build-up is not sort of synchronised with any build-up that the American media are doing. We have not been asked to do so and we won't do that.

LD: So, in other words, you sometimes feel that you are a side-show when you have the British prime minister saying, 'Well we may go to war, even if the weapons inspectors don't find a smoking gun'?

Unmovic inspectors in Iraq
The inspectors have visited hundreds of sites within Iraq

HB: Well it could be that one day they will say, 'Move aside boys, now we are coming in' - that's possible. But I think a great many people and a great many governments would prefer to have disarmament through peaceful means.

LD: So do you feel this? Do you feel sometimes you are a sham if you already say that they may come in and say, 'Move aside boys'? If, at some point they're going to say, 'Right, thank you very much but we're going to get on'?

HB: It could happen but that is not our working assumption. Our working assumption is that we continue - we have a mandate under the resolution from 1999 and we continue on that mandate.

LD: Are you convinced they will give you the time it takes?

HB: Convinced is a bit too much to say, actually. But I don't see any other signal except the build-up. There is a certain momentum in a build-up and that worries a great many people, including myself. Yet I have to listen to what the president of the US says: namely, that use of force is only the method of last resort. I think Prime Minister Blair is saying the same thing.

LD: You've made hundreds of visits - or your inspectors have. You've said to the Security Council there's no smoking gun. But have you found even a whiff of smoke - anything suspicious?

HB: We have found several cases... (where) it is clear that Iraq has imported weapons-related material in violation of the prohibitions of the Security Council. Whether these discoveries or these items are related to weapons of mass destruction is a matter that we still need to determine.

But there have been a considerable amount of imports in the weapons sector which clearly is smuggling and in violation, and we have found large quantities.


LD: (US Secretary of State) Colin Powell has said they have vital intelligence - have they given it to you?

HB: We had fairly good co-operation, both with the Americans and British and other sources of intelligence, and we are beginning to make more use of it.

I've felt in the past that they (the US and Britain) were a bit like librarians who had books that they didn't want to lend to the customer

LD: How can you say you have good relations if they haven't given you all the intelligence so far?

HB: Well they have given me... shall we say, information about how they calculate their programmes - what size they are and so forth. But we need... actionable evidence. That's indications of where we can go, what places that we can inspect. That will also be coming.

LD: So while you race around Baghdad and its environs, you're acutely aware that the Americans and the British have intelligence which could make your job easier, but they haven't given it to you yet.

HB: What I am saying is that it is coming and we are going to act on it.

LD: But how do you explain the fact that they haven't given it to you? What is their game? You're supposed to be on the same side, in principle.

HB: I think you'd better ask them the question.

LD: What about you? You're the man who's supposed to find the evidence (but) if you don't get the intelligence to do it...

Chemical warfare bombs uncovered during previous inspection regime
The US and Britain say they are convinced Iraq still has banned weapons

HB: I've felt in the past at some time that they were a bit like librarians who had books that they didn't want to lend to the customer. But I think that is changing.

LD: But it's not just a library we're talking about here, we're talking about a potential war which could have devastating consequences and they are not giving you full co-operation.

HB: Well, I am not saying that they are not giving us adequate co-operation at the present time - it is changing.

LD: So let's say, for example, in the last two weeks: Have you been given new information and intelligence which led you to a site you didn't know of before?

HB: I don't want to go into operational things, but certainly we have already visited sites which have not been visited before, and there will be more of them coming.

LD: So you can say that the quality of your work has increased recently because new intelligence, previously denied to you, is now in your possession?

HB: Well, we have widened our net, as it were. Whether the quality of work improves depends upon how good the intelligence turns out to have been.

LD: And you believe there is that good intelligence somewhere out there?

HB: I think there is some, yes - at least we are going to test it.

Nuclear arsenal

LD: When you were head of the International Atomic Energy Agency during the last rounds of inspections, were you convinced that all fissile material had been taken out of Iraq, and all the equipment?

HB: Yes, we were convinced that all the fissile material that could be used for any weapons purposes had been taken out of Iraq, and we knew that we had eliminated and destroyed the whole infrastructure that Iraq had built up for the enrichment of uranium.

But real questions were still needed to be cleared up - not so many, but there were some, and the Iraqis were very annoyed that the IAEA would not close the dossier as they requested.

However, I think... we are agreed that you won't be able to come to the very last layer of emptying the barrel, as it were, there will always be a residue of uncertainty. What I can do with some hope of great success is that the infrastructure, larger installations all over the place - that is gone. But the last little residue - you may never be able to find.

War option

LD: But after a month-and-a-half, Dr Blix, of inspections, do you have any sense at all of where you are going and whether you are likely to succeed?

HB: I certainly have a sense of what we want to inspect further, and how we are going to build up the operation and be able to cover more and more places, and being able to make use of any intelligence of sites that are given to us.

Whether one can find any hidden cave of stores or a mobile laboratory, for instance, that is more doubtful and that will depend very much upon the evidence. But I don't think they can give an assurance that the last pieces will be found.

I certainly would prefer to have a disarmament of Iraq through peaceful means

Nevertheless... (having) inspectors present in a large country where they can go anywhere... and they have helicopters, they have satellites... it is quite a big apparatus that is at your disposal to monitor the place. Everyone should compare this with the other option... in terms of the armed option as the number of casualties, the people who are injured, the enormous destruction etc.

But we are producing perhaps 250 people altogether and we spend about $80m per year, for the first year, and armed action, I understand from media here, will cost something like $100bn and involve 250,000 people or something like that. There is a dramatic gap between the two options.

You will not get 100% assurance with the inspection, but you can get very far in terms of assurance. The question for the politicians is to decide is that kind of assurance (is)sufficient for them. Is this containment sufficient or do they want to go further at a much, much higher cost.

LD: Do I sense in your remarks the views of a man who is opposed to a war?

HB: Well, I certainly would prefer to have a disarmament of Iraq through peaceful means and inspection is the path that could lead in this direction.

LD: Are you opposed to a war?

HB: It is my job to try the peaceful path, I should say. I'm not taking a stand on the other - others will have to defend that. It's is my job to try to do the best we can of this option.

LD: But as a man who has reservations about war, clearly... you feel the burden that you in effect may provide the trigger for that war?

HB: I think that all have reservations about war. I think that Prime Minister Blair has reservations about war and President Bush does...

LD: Hans Blix, you're on the front line, it is your report. If you do come up with incriminating evidence, you could provide the trigger for war.

HB: I will not turn in any report for a political purpose. We are asked to be the watchdogs of the Security Council and tell them the truth exactly as it is, and that's what we will do. It is not me who decides... to (go to) war, that is decided by the Security Council and its members...

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