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 Thursday, 9 January, 2003, 21:52 GMT
Analysis: 'Co-operation' test for Iraq
UN weapons inspectors in Iraq
Will UN inspectors be able to break up Iraqi "scientist cells"?

The key word to emerge from the meeting of the United Nations Security Council and the chief weapons inspectors was "pro-active".

What we have seen does not constitute active co-operation

John Negroponte, US Ambassador to the UN
Iraq will have to become "pro-active", said the two hawks in the Council, the United States and Britain.

Opening the gates to factories and facilities, even presidential palaces, will not be enough.

Iraq will have to get into the real business of accounting for missing material.

Iraqi 'cells'

Well placed sources say that the US and Britain remain convinced that Iraq is hiding something.

Chief UN inspector Hans Blix
Blix wants further interviews with Iraqi scientists soon

One official told News Online that Iraq had broken down its scientists into "cells" so that they and their programmes would be less easily tracked down.

The way into these cells, the British and Americans believe, is by interviewing the scientists without Iraqi minders and - if necessary - outside the country, probably in Cyprus.

Both the US and UK have now provided intelligence information to help the inspectors narrow the field.

Iraq's "passive co-operation has been good but its pro-active co-operation "has not been forthcoming," said Sir Jeremy Greenstock, the British UN ambassador after the meeting.

He added if it is not forthcoming "it will become an increasingly serious matter".

The American envoy, John Negroponte, said that "what we have seen does not constitute active co-operation".

He added ominously that if Iraq "chooses not to seize this opportunity to disarm", it would "bear the responsibility for the consequences".

Everyone knows what that means.

"Pro-active cooperation is required," said Mr Negroponte.

No 'D-Day'

Opponents of a war against Iraq will in turn point to the conclusion of the inspectors that they have found no "smoking gun" in Iraq, that is, no signs of weapons of mass destruction.

Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tarik Aziz
Tariq Aziz accuses the inspectors of spying

The next briefing for the Council will be on Monday 27 January.

It will be given what resolution 1441 calls an "update".

27 January was never a deadline and the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has made that clear in order to calm some anxious nerves.

The US Secretary of State Colin Powell says it is not a "D-Day".

After that Council meeting, the member states will probably consult their governments with a view to a further meeting.

This is being insisted on by the Russians, among others, in order to prevent the US from using the 27 January date as a trigger for war.

'Co-operation test'

There is no timetable after that, but if Iraq has not been "pro-active" by then, the mood will be serious.

US President George W. Bush
Bush has ordered more US troops in the Gulf

Mr Blair - and the French and Russians - says that the inspectors must be given time to do their job.

But the Americans will be getting impatient by the end of the month if the Iraqis maintain their current attitude.

In the meantime Dr Hans Blix and Dr Mohamed El Baradei, the heads of the inspections team Unmovic and the International Atomic Energy Agency respectively, are going to Baghdad with a list of questions on 19 and 20 January.

It is vital for Iraq to pass the "co-operation" test because on that depends its fate.

Resolution 1441 allows Iraq be declared in material breach if it does not co-operate and that word is being defined now in a much wider way than perhaps Iraq had imagined.

It is important to remember that action against Iraq does not actually depend on whether weapons of mass destruction or their components are found.

Iraq can be found guilty if it does not open its books and explain to inspectors what it has or has not been doing.

So far, according to both Drs Blix and El Baradei it has not.

Setback for allies

Most of their questions have concerned materiel which was unaccounted at the end of the previous inspections in 1998.

Various amounts of chemicals and biological growth media along with thousands of shells and bombs and a number of Scud missiles "disappeared" but Iraq has not given evidence of their destruction.

It has said there are no documents but has failed, in some cases, to provide other evidence like the names of the technical staff involved or the locations.

There has been one setback for the case against Iraq.

Last autumn, the US and British Governments laid considerable stress on the attempted purchase by Iraq of thousand of aluminium tubes.

These, it was said, could be used for the enrichment of uranium, and were therefore evidence of a nuclear weapons programme.

However Dr El Baradei now says that they were probably for the manufacture of rockets, as Iraq has maintained.

This does not destroy the case but it does weaken it.

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See also:

09 Jan 03 | Middle East
09 Jan 03 | Country profiles
09 Jan 03 | Middle East
09 Jan 03 | Middle East
07 Jan 03 | Middle East
07 Jan 03 | Middle East
11 Dec 02 | Americas
09 Jan 03 | Politics
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