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 Monday, 9 December, 2002, 11:33 GMT
Iraq declaration: The first failure?
Journalists in Baghdad
Journalists in Baghdad scramble for the dossier

American and British officials are keen to establish from the dossier Iraq has handed to the UN whether Saddam Hussein has failed the first test they laid down for the document's credibility - has he accounted for missing war material, including chemical and nerve gas agents.

It appears from what the Iraqis have said about their declaration so far that they might fail this test.

In that case, the crisis could move to a dangerous new phase, because Washington might in due course press for Iraq to be declared in material breach of Security Council resolution 1441.

'No rush to judgement'

However the line in London is that there should be "no rush to judgement".

A British official said: "We will examine this declaration thoroughly and critically."

It is pointed out that the UN weapons inspections team (Unmovic) does not have to report its opinion on Iraqi cooperation with the inspection process until 26 January.

Britain wants to stick by the letter of resolution 1441 which requires that a material breach is determined by a failure to co-operate as well as by a false statement.

Washington might not be so patient. It is a grey area.

The general's explanation

Saddam Hussein's scientific adviser General Amir al-Saadi gave reporters in Baghdad an outline of what was in the 12,000 page bundle.

He spoke about lists of potentially dual-use facilities, including leather tanneries and even cheese producing plants, which Iraq has to detail.

We have done all the researching we could and we could not find any more documents

General al-Saadi
He said that Iraq had given an account of how close it once came to building a nuclear bomb. General al-Saadi should know. He headed the nuclear bomb programme, under which, it is thought, Iraq nearly produced a bomb just before the Gulf War of 1991.

But the general indicated that the declaration did not contain anything new about unaccounted for stockpiles. "We have done all the researching we could and we could not find any more [documents]," he said.

Missing material

The "missing" material includes, according to recent British and CIA dossiers, hundreds of metric tons of chemical warfare agents, including VX nerve agent, thousands of tonnes of chemical precursors, growth media for biological warfare, along with tens of thousand of shells and bombs which could be used for delivery.

"The production of mustard gas is not like marmalade. You have to keep some records

Hans Blix
When UN weapons inspectors left Iraq in 1998, they complained that Iraqi explanations about what had happened to this material were inadequate.

The fear now is that those explanations have not changed.

Dr Hans Blix, the head of Unmovic, has remarked that explanations should be available: "The production of mustard gas is not like marmalade," he said recently. "You have to keep some records."

There are other things the Americans and British are looking for as well.

Among these are explanations of the functions of certain chemical and biological production factories, the development of Iraqi ballistic missiles and the disappearance of a number of Scud rockets after the Gulf War.

The absence of any or all of these from the declaration will be taken as a serious omission.


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