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Saturday, 7 December, 2002, 21:31 GMT
US hopes dossier will trap Iraq
Journalists in Baghdad
Journalists in Baghdad scramble for the dossier

The requirement in Security Council Resolution 1441 that Iraq must declare its weapons at the start of the inspection process was put there deliberately - to provide a test and possibly to set a trap.

Iraq has followed the instructions of the resolution by declaring that it has no weapons of mass destruction and by listing those industrial plants which are potentially dual - civilian and military - use.

The 12,000-page declaration is, as predicted by a senior British diplomat a month ago, so crammed with detail it could take months to wade through and so bog down the UN weapons inspectors.

The US and Britain are likely to press hard for the documents, but the resolution says the UN Security Council should get a copy and both the UN weapons inspection organisation, Unmovic, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) want to examine it first.

'Defection agency'

Nevertheless, the United States and Britain are determined that this declaration be used to test Iraq's truthfulness.

Iraqi officials unloaded boxes of its dossier at UN headquarters in Baghdad
The dossier will now be the baseline for UN checks
It will at the very least provide a baseline for whatever is found in the inspections and if Iraq is found to have lied, it will have been trapped.

Washington is now expected to step up the pressure for very rigorous inspections.

There is also a strong view in Washington that the best way to find out what is going on in Iraq is to question the scientists involved, taking them and their families out of the country if need be.

Resolution 1441 allows for this.

But Dr Hans Blix, the head of Unmovic, has so far resisted such a move, saying that he is not running a ''defection agency''.

He says he will deal with this issue in due course, but if he does not act soon, criticism of him will start flowing from the White House.

Pressure on allies

The test that US President George W Bush faces is to provide evidence for his claims that Iraq does have weapons of mass destruction.

A document issued by the CIA made assertions but offered no proof. Nor did a similar British government dossier.

If the inspectors do not turn up anything, while Washington and London continue to say Iraq is lying, then the two allies will come under increasing pressure to disclose the evidence they do have.

President George W. Bush
Mr Bush will come under more pressure from hawks
Presumably at least some of this evidence will be given to Unmovic to help in the inspections.

The indications are that Mr Bush will allow some time for the truth of the declaration to be tested on the ground.

In Britain's view, the declaration cannot by itself be used as evidence that Iraq has breached resolution 1441 and so be liable to face the "serious consequences" the resolution threatens.

There would, in London's opinion, need to be a clear indication that Iraq was not co-operating with the inspectors as well.

However, there is a grey area and the Washington hawks might press for a decision to attack if this all gets bogged down.

Mobile laboratories

The hawks were not happy that Mr Bush sided with Secretary of State Colin Powell and went to the UN instead of taking unilateral action.

An Iraqi soldier clears journalists from a UN inspection of a plant in Samarah
The US expects the inspections to become more rigorous

Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to underestimate the American resolve.

This remains a very dangerous crisis and only if Iraq is either proved to be correct in its claim of innocence or is proved to be untruthful and actually disarmed will the threat of war go away.

And it is by no means clear that Iraq can ever prove its innocence.

The CIA made much in its document about the mobile laboratories it believes are used to develop biological weapons.

Such units, presumably hidden in trucks, would be impossible to find.

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See also:

08 Dec 02 | Middle East
08 Dec 02 | Politics
04 Dec 02 | Europe
04 Dec 02 | Middle East
03 Dec 02 | Middle East
04 Dec 02 | Middle East
03 Dec 02 | Politics
03 Dec 02 | In Depth
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