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Wednesday, 11 December, 2002, 02:04 GMT
Annan criticises handling of Iraq files
Woman at the al-Foraq chemical factory
Weapons checks continued despite the diplomatic spat
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has described as "unfortunate" the Security Council's handling of the Iraqi weapons declaration, amid continuing discontent over Washington's role in the matter.

Mr Annan - responding to questions from BBC World Service listeners - said the decision to allow the US to take the only complete copy of the document to edit it before it was released to non-permanent Council members "was fine, but the approach and style were wrong".

It was unfortunate and I hope it is not going to be repeated

Kofi Annan
The chief UN weapons inspector, Hans Blix, has said an edited version of the 12,000-page dossier could be ready by Monday, and a preliminary assessment available by Thursday.

Iraq earlier accused the US of "unprecedented blackmail" and warned that Washington could alter the contents of the document, which has already been distributed to the five permanent Council members.

Some of the 10 non-permanent members of the Council have criticised the moves to restrict early access to the files, which Baghdad says prove that it has no weapons of mass destruction.

But Mr Blix stressed that what was being taken out of the lengthy document was material that could be "risky" from the point of view of weapons proliferation.

Weapons inspectors on the ground in Iraq have stepped up their operations, visiting five sites on Tuesday - the most so far in a single day.

Others upset

Iraq's condemnation of the US came shortly after Washington duplicated and handed over copies of the dossier to China, France, Russia and the UK.

"This American behaviour aims at manipulating UN documents to find cover for aggression against Iraq," the Iraqi Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

While describing the row over America's role as "unfortunate", Mr Annan denied charges that the UN was being pushed around by Washington:

"I will remind people to look back to the eight-week period when we were discussing this issue, when Washington was quite frustrated that things were not moving fast enough."

Other members of the Council are reported to be upset at the extent to which the US took charge of handing out copies to the permanent members.

Iraqi dossiers
Iraq's dossier
  • Contains 12,000 pages in Arabic and English covering Iraq's chemical, biological and nuclear capabilities.
  • 2,100 page nuclear component being studied by IAEA in Vienna.
  • Declaration being examined first by five nuclear powers on Security Council.

    See also:


  • Norway's Foreign Minister Jan Petersen objected to being treated as " a second-class country".

    Reuters news agency quoted a diplomat as saying he believed the Iraqi declaration listed foreign suppliers which had dealt with Iraq, a potentially embarrassing revelation for Council members and other nations.

    Syria's ambassador to the UN, Mikhail Wehbe, said the decision to allow the US principal access was "in contradiction to... every kind of logic in the Security Council".

    In a BBC interview, Mr Wehbe expressed fears that the five big powers might claim Iraq was in material breach of UN Resolution 1441 - triggering "serious consequences" - before non-permanent members of the Security Council had even seen the dossier.

    New inspections

    More weapons inspectors have been arriving in Iraq, bringing the total force to about 70.

    In a first long-range mission, one of Tuesday's inspections took a team to a remote a remote mine close to the Syrian border once used to extract uranium.

    Unmovic inspectors also went to at least two sites near Baghdad on Tuesday:

    • a laboratory associated with Iraq's discontinued germ warfare programme in Abu Ghurayb near Baghdad and
    • Al-Furat Chemical Industries General Company, which has ties with the Ministry of Industry and Minerals, south of the capital

     WATCH/LISTEN
     ON THIS STORY
    The BBC's Matt Frei
    "The question of war or peace is entombed in Iraq's weapons declaration"
    UN Secretary General Kofi Annan
    "It was unfortunate and I hope it will not be repeated"
     VOTE RESULTS
    Iraq: Is war inevitable?

    Yes
     58.14% 

    No
     41.86% 

    74035 Votes Cast

    Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion


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