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EDITIONS
Sunday, 18 August, 2002, 14:10 GMT 15:10 UK
Hans Blix, United Nations' chief weapons inspector
BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST
HOSTED BY HUW EDWARDS
INTERVIEW:
HANS BLIX
HANS BLIX, UNITED NATIONS' CHIEF WEAPONS INSPECTOR
AUGUST 18TH, 2002

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

HUW EDWARDS:
Now from the White House in the past few days came the strongest indication yet that America will take military action against Iraq regardless of the debate over weapons inspections in that country. Condalezza Rice, the National Security Adviser, said that West didn't have the luxury of doing nothing.

Even Mr Blair is facing rising pressure from Labour MPs - Bob Marshall-Andrews underlined that earlier on - and divisions among Cabinet members too. Meanwhile the United Nations Chief Weapons Inspector, Han Blix, has received an invitation from Baghdad to hold technical discussions on the return of weapons inspectors.

But it is worth considering? That was the question I put to Mr Blix, a little earlier.

HANS BLIX:
UNMOVIC was set up two-and-a-half years by the Security Council and we have been preparing ourselves for inspections and we are ready for it. So we are very eager to start inspections. However, you have to read the small print of any invitation and it seemed to us that this was by no means a distinction by the Iraqis to invite inspection but rather to suggest discussions about what issues were open in 1998. We have not been directed by the Security Council to do that.

We would be very glad to discuss with the Iraqis the practical arrangements - like where were to land in Baghdad - where are inspectors to be lodged and the communications and so forth. But the Iraqis have so far not been interested in discussing that. I hope they will be.

HUW EDWARDS:
Are you saying that the invitation, as it currently stands, is pretty meaningless?

HANS BLIX:
It was totally at variance with the order and procedure laid down by the Security Council and we are not playing any politics of our own. We are respecting what the Council tells us and therefore their proposal was not really acceptable as it stood.

HUW EDWARDS:
Could you tell us then what conditions need to be met so that you can go in and do the work that you want to do?

HANS BLIX:
Well not very much. If they simply said that you are welcome tomorrow with the inspectors, we could go in and we will go there. However, we think it would be useful to avoid having any frictions about practical issues - like landings, like communications in Iraq - to discuss those in advance. We are ready to do that and we have said that to the Iraqis. We have also given them a list of such issues. But they have not so far responded to that.

HUW EDWARDS:
So crucially Mr Blix, the Iraqis want discussions about a disarmament mission before giving inspectors unlimited access? You want the opposite don't you?

HANS BLIX:
They want talk first and in the light of the talks maybe decide whether they will invite inspections. Whereas the Council assumes that we will go in and we will take a look for about two months in Iraq and thereafter try to identify which are the important issues and take them to the Council for approval - not to the Iraqis for approval.

HUW EDWARDS:
Well it seems to me Mr Blix that you are a very, very long way from getting the kind of invitation you want from Iraq at the moment. Would you agree with that?

HANS BLIX:
No, not necessarily. I think there are many surprises and unexpected turns in this matter. We are simply patiently waiting for an invitation and to do the job. We are determined to be an authority of integrity and of the UN - we serve the Council and nobody else. We are also not coming to Iraq to harass or to insult or humiliate them - that's not our purpose. We want to try to find out what is the situation with the weapons of mass destruction - do they have any, or they don't have any. And the Iraqis who claim that they have absolutely none, I think in my view, they should be interested in having us.

HUW EDWARDS:
Well the response of the UN Secretary-General, Mr Anan, to Iraq's invitation was very cautious. But the response from America and Britain was immediate rejection. Did that upset you at all? Did you think the invitation should be considered by America and Britain at least semi-seriously?

HANS BLIX:
No. We had absolutely no contact with the British or the Americans or anybody else before the Secretary-General answered. He and I talked about it and we analysed it. We reached it on a Thursday and a Friday morning - he and I were agreed on what should be answered.

The British and the Americans, the Russians and the Chinese, of course can form their opinions as they like, but we answered on our own.

HUW EDWARDS:
Well, there is a view of course that the confrontation over weapons inspections might be used by the White House as one reason to push ahead with military action. Now are you concerned that you and your team could be caught up in that type of reasoning? Would that not be unhelpful in your view?

HANS BLIX:
Well, I do not presume that we are going to have an easy task. But I think that we have to be absolutely firm in being a UN authority - the preceding organisation, UNSCOM, was very skilful but it was much more directly dependent upon member states. We have our own inspectors paid by the UN and we have a greater degree of independence and we intend to exercise that on behalf of the Council.

HUW EDWARDS:
But how much more difficult does it make your job trying to gain access to these weapon sites, if they exist, while President Bush in the White House and Britain are all making very belligerent noises towards Baghdad?

HANS BLIX:
Well, I would think that if the Iraqis conclude that an invasion by someone is the inevitable then they might conclude that it's not very meaningful to have inspections. But my conviction is that the worry - the concern - that they may retain weapons of mass destruction is a very important element, both in Washington and anywhere else. And if inspectors are allowed in and if they are given really unfettered access with no delays etc., they I think this might play an important role and we would be eager to do that and to help towards a non-belligerent solution.

HUW EDWARDS:
If the inspections continue to be blocked, is that reason enough to press ahead with more direct action - if I can call it that?

HANS BLIX:

Well, that's not really for me to answer at all. We are doing what the Council tells us and the governments, of course, will react and they will draw their own conclusions. We are ready to serve the world community.

HUW EDWARDS:
Now given all the expertise and all the intelligence at your disposal, what would you expect to find in Iraq, Mr Blix? Would you expect to find a big weapons programme or not on the basis of what you know?

HANS BLIX:
Well, we are not here in order to speculate about what they have but rather to find on site - in situ, what there may be or may not be. There are many issues which, in our view, are unclear and which would need to be answered. So that will be our task.

Of course, we read the newspapers and we hear what various intelligence organisations are saying and I'm not assuming at all that the Iraqis have retained weapons of mass destruction. At the same time, it would evidently be na´ve of me to conclude that they don't. In that case, the inspection would not be needed. So inspection on site is important.

HUW EDWARDS:
Well, lots of people listening to this interview will find a little surprising that you have no idea what the Iraqis may or may not have there.

HANS BLIX:
Well, we listen to, as I said, what various intelligence organisations are saying but they are not providing any evidence on the table and it would be our job to go to the various places they might have talked about and see on site whether there was something or not.

HUW EDWARDS:
What about the current atmosphere? The US National Security Adviser, Condolezza Rice, was saying very clearly just last week, that in her view there was a strong moral case for a change of regime in Baghdad. Now when we have that kind of rhetoric, doesn't it make your job almost impossible?

HANS BLIX:
Well, we are not given the task by the Security Council to express views on the regime in Baghdad. There are human rights mechanisms in the UN, reports about the situation in Iraq and we read them. We have a very defined task and that is go for inspection and look for weapons of mass destruction.

HUW EDWARDS:
Is it your hunch, Mr Blix, that within the next few weeks or months, you might well find yourself in Iraq looking at these sites? Do you think that that is going to happen?

HANS BLIX:
I really don't know. So far the Iraqis have not given a sign that they are ready for inspection but it may well happen. This situation is one that had many unexpected elements from all sides.

HUW EDWARDS:
Well, we wish you good luck with your work Mr Blix and thank you very much for talking to us.

HANS BLIX:
We are ready for it. Thank you.

HUW EDWARDS:
Hans Blix talking to me a short while ago.


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