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 Monday, 27 January, 2003, 21:00 GMT
Analysis: Iraq still in the dock
UN inspections team in Iraq
Inspectors have now been in Iraq for two months

The report of the chief UN weapons inspector Dr Hans Blix was not so much the "mixed bag" he had promised as the sandbagging of Iraq.

He concluded: "Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance - not even today - of the disarmament which was demanded of it and which it needs to carry out to win the confidence of the world and to live in peace."

Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance - not even today - of the disarmament which was demanded of it and which it needs to carry out to win the confidence of the world and to live in peace

Dr Hans Blix

What he said enabled the United States to increase the intensity of its diplomatic assault on Iraq, which might soon become a physical assault.

This was the key test - whether the United States would moderate its language. It did not. It has plenty of ammunition from Iraq's "missing munitions".

The US Secretary of State Colin Powell's response was ominous: "Iraq's refusal to disarm ... still threatens international peace and security." He added that there was "not much more time".

Note that Dr Blix's words do not mean that we are at the end of the road.

They suggest that Iraq still has time to come to the "genuine acceptance" he wants.

But they do imply that we are near the end of the road.

No nuclear evidence

The senior nuclear inspector Dr Mohamed ElBaradei was more positive.

He said that there was no evidence that Iraq has revived its nuclear weapons programme and that the inspectors' work "should be allowed to run its natural course" over the next months.

He is unlikely to get his months. It was Dr Blix to whom the Americans were listening.

The American UN Ambassador John Negroponte pointed the way to the marshalling of Security Council votes for a second resolution authorising force.

He said: "In the days ahead we believe that the council and its member governments must face their responsibilities."

The use of the word "days" was not a casual one.

Next report

On 14 February it is likely that Dr Blix will report again. If that report, too, is negative, the moment of decision will not be far off.

The United States will press for an attack, if possible with the approval of the Security Council, if necessary alone. March will then be the most likely month for war.

In the days ahead we believe that the council and its member governments must face their responsibilities

John Negroponte,
US ambassador
The British attitude is only a bit more reticent than that of the Americans.

The British Ambassador Sir Jeremy Greenstock described the Blix report as a "catalogue of unanswered questions". If answers are not forthcoming soon, the British response, too, will be harsh.

The problem for the Iraqi Government and for those governments opposing war (and they are many, led by France, Russia, China and Germany on the Security Council) is that there was evidence against Iraq in Dr Blix's report, even though there were mitigating factors as well.

And for the United States, the evidence produced was evidence enough.

Asked about whether Iraq is co-operating, the White House has said that "if the answer is a partial yes, the answer is no".

Evidence against

The evidence against included:

  • Failure to allow overflights by U2 reconnaissance aircraft

  • Failure to produce scientists for private interviews and the hiding of documents in a private house

  • Failure to account for missing quantities of anthrax, biological growth media and VX nerve agent

  • Evidence, despite denials, that Iraq had weaponised VX

  • Failure to account for 6,500 chemical bombs left over from war with Iran and to explain the discovery of 12 chemical rockets. They could be the "tip of a submerged iceberg"

  • Illegal Import of 380 rocket engines and testing of rockets beyond the 150 km range permitted

    Evidence in favour

    Against that, the reports revealed:

  • No nuclear programme discovered, despite allegations to the contrary in British and American dossiers last year

  • No "smoking gun" found; inspections of suspect sites in the dossiers have turned up nothing incriminating so far

  • Good co-operation in allowing access to sites

  • It is the scientists themselves who have refused to do interviews in private

  • No deployed chemical weapons, despite a claim in the British dossier that such munitions were ready to be fired within 45 minutes of an order

  • Iraq says that "missing material" was all lost or destroyed

    Is the glass half full or half empty?

    Secretary Powell said that President Bush would be consulting with other leaders in the days ahead. They will be dangerous days.

  •   WATCH/LISTEN
      ON THIS STORY
      The BBC's James Robbins in New York
    "Inspectors kept up their searches even as their boss catalogued dozens of unanswered questions"
      Dr Hans Blix, UN chief weapons inspector
    "Access has been provided to all sites we wanted to inspect"
      John Negroponte, US ambassador to the UN
    "They are not cooperating unconditionally"

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    See also:

    27 Jan 03 | Middle East
    26 Jan 03 | Americas
    26 Jan 03 | Americas
    24 Jan 03 | Middle East
    19 Nov 02 | Middle East
    22 Jan 03 | Country profiles
    27 Jan 03 | Middle East
    27 Jan 03 | Americas
    27 Jan 03 | Middle East
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