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Friday, 14 February, 2003, 18:00 GMT
'Banned weapons unaccounted for'
Hans Blix
The report could determine how the crisis unfolds
The chief UN arm inspector Hans Blix has told the United Nations Security Council that Iraq still needs to provide evidence to back its claims it does not possess banned weapons.

But he took a more positive line than in his report two weeks ago, saying Baghdad had made progress in a number of areas.

Mr Blix said that while disarmament could be still be achieved, "The issues of anthrax, the nerve agent VX and long-range missiles [are]... perhaps the most important problem we are facing.

"Iraq itself must squarely tackle this task and avoid belittling the questions," he said.

Called for by UN Resolution 1441
Second report since 27 January
Covers biological, chemical and nuclear weapons inspections

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Dr Mohamed ElBaradei, repeated his finding that his inspectors had discovered no evidence that Iraq was restarting its nuclear programme.

He said inspections were continuing and the number of inspectors would be increased.

Addressing the council afterwards, the UK foreign secretary Jack Straw - whose country is the US' staunchest ally - said council members had to "hold our nerve" to ensure Iraq faced the serious consequences threatened by UN resolution 1441 for non-co-operation.

The inspectors' reports on the progress of arms inspections are likely to determine whether Britain and the United States decide to seek a second UN resolution authorising the use of force to disarm Iraq.

France, Russia and China - other council members with the power to veto a new resolution - want inspections in Iraq to be given more time, with France calling for a tripling in the number of inspectors.

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said inspectors should be given the time they need to complete their task.

"The use of military force is not justified today," he said.

'No evidence'

Mr Blix cast doubt on American intelligence material presented to the Security Council last week by US Secretary of State Colin Powell.

He said he had no evidence that Iraq had had advance warning of inspections - as has been claimed by the United States - and questioned satellite images said to show suspicious movement at an Iraqi weapons site.

Current Security Council
For military action: US, UK, Spain and Bulgaria
Sceptics or opposed: France, Russia, China, Germany and Syria
In doubt: Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Guinea, Mexico and Pakistan
Nine votes and no veto required to pass a resolution

"The reported movement of munitions at the site could just as easily have been a routine activity as a movement of proscribed munitions in anticipation of an imminent inspection," he said.

Mr Blix confirmed that Iraq's Al-Samoud missile programme exceeded UN-imposed limits on range and was "therefore proscribed for Iraq".

He said that while inspections had been carried out without problems, Iraqi compliance with UN resolution 1441 meant "more than opening doors".

He said private interviews with Iraqi scientists - a key sticking point - had "proved informative", but no interviews had taken place on the UN's terms since 9 February .

In other developments:

  • Iraqi President Saddam Hussein issues a decree forbidding the development and trade of weapons of mass destruction - a key demand of Mr Blix during his visit to Baghdad last weekend.

  • Pope John Paul II tells Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister, Tariq Aziz, that Iraq must show "concrete commitments" to disarm, at a meeting at the Vatican on Friday.

  • Up to 150,000 anti-war protesters take to the streets of Melbourne, Australia, ahead of other peace rallies planned for this weekend around the world, including in New York and London.

  • Egypt calls for an emergency meeting of the Arab League on 22 February to discuss the crisis.

  • Austria bans the transit of US troops and equipment across its territory from Germany to Italy without a second UN resolution authorising the use of force against Iraq.

The US secretary of state, who will address the council shortly, has said he intends to challenge France and Germany on whether they plan to let Saddam Hussein "off the hook".

The BBC's Rageh Omaar in Baghdad
"It was not as grave as I thought it would be"
Dr Hans Blix, chief UN weapons inspector
"Iraq itself must squarely tackle this task"
Should UN inspectors be given more time?



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14 Feb 03 | Politics
14 Feb 03 | Middle East
13 Feb 03 | Middle East
14 Feb 03 | Asia-Pacific
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