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Tuesday, 24 September, 2002, 21:17 GMT 22:17 UK
UN lukewarm on Iraq dossier
Dossier photo of Al-Rafah engine test stand
Most of the dossier's contents are already known

It is perhaps not surprising that the release of British Prime Minister Tony Blair's dossier on Iraq barely caused a splash at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

Diplomats and UN officials have been immersed in the details of Iraq's non-compliance with Security Council resolutions, and its alleged pursuit of weapons of mass destruction ever since the end of the Gulf War more than a decade ago.


The question everyone will be asking is: Why now? Why has it taken so long to introduce this dossier?

David Malone
International Peace Academy
The reaction from many of those who work here was that the dossier was interesting, but did not add a great deal to what was already known.

"My impression is that it's largely unspecific, and doesn't really tell us anything we didn't know already," said David Malone, the president of the International Peace Academy, a think tank based just across the street from UN headquarters.

"It's not likely to impress anyone here," he says. "It seems to contain far more in terms of assertions than it does in real evidence."

'Nothing added'

This view was also reflected by a diplomat representing one of the non-permanent members of the Security Council, who did not want to be identified.

Hans Blix
Blix's UNMOVIC is studying the dossier carefully
"The question everyone will be asking is: Why now? Why has it taken so long to introduce this dossier?" he said.

"It pulls together a lot of strands of old information. It's useful to know all of this, it spells out the evidence, but it doesn't really add anything.

"It looks like part of the arsenal of coercive evidence against Iraq, part of the British strategy of trying to show they're reasonable in demanding action against Baghdad."

Not surprisingly, US diplomats gave the most favourable reaction, echoing the enthusiastic response from the Bush administration in Washington.

"I think it's very helpful to have countries other than the United States assess the threat from Iraq," said one US official. "It's helpful to us when they voice their concerns."

'Get inspectors back'

Diplomats representing Arab nations at the UN were firmly placed in the sceptical camp. They have been fighting a rearguard action to stave off any military intervention in Iraq, urging Security Council members to let diplomacy run its full course.


Anyone can come up with this kind of information, so that's why it's most urgent for the Security Council to get the inspectors back in

Yahya Mahmassani
Arab League ambassador
"We have listened to what Mr Blair had to say, and we believe that the only authoritative way of verifying this information is to get UN weapons inspectors back in," said Yahya Mahmassani, the Arab League Ambassador to the United Nations.

"Anyone can come up with this kind of information, so that's why it's most urgent for the Security Council to get the inspectors back in."

There is little doubt that the office of the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, has been keeping tabs on the release of the Blair dossier, but his spokesman, Fred Eckhard was giving little away.

"At this point it's not a matter for the Secretary General to comment on," he said. "It's more one for Hans Blix to address."

Dr Blix is the chairman of UNMOVIC, the UN weapons inspection team that may soon return to Iraq to lift a veil on what precisely Baghdad does, or does not possess in terms of weapons of mass destruction.

"Like a lot of open-sourced information, we are clearly studying the dossier closely," said UNMOVIC spokesman Ewen Buchanan.

"This needs to be done by our analysts, and is not something we wish immediately to comment on."

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Look at reactions to the dossier in Washington and Baghdad

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24 Sep 02 | Middle East
24 Sep 02 | Politics
24 Sep 02 | Politics
24 Sep 02 | Politics
24 Sep 02 | Politics
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