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EDITIONS
Friday, 7 June, 2002, 16:01 GMT 17:01 UK
Access to the axis of evil
Access to the axis of evil

Hans Blix
Iraq may have been designated a part of the axis of evil by President Bush, but Saddam Hussein seems to be giving more and more thought to UN requests to resume weapons inspections inside his country.

Next month Iraqi officials hold a third meeting with members of the UN weapons monitoring commission - UNMOVIC - which is led by Hans Blix.

Jeremy Vine spoke to Mr Blix.


JEREMY VINE:
Hans Blix now joins us from New York. Mr Blix, Do you worry that Iraq is messing you around?

HANS BLIX:
(UN Chief Weapons Inspector)
They have so far not invited to perform any inspections. That is what the discussions under the Secretary-General's leadership are dealing with.

JEREMY VINE:
But, it was planning to allow this third-party of talks to happen in April, then they were put off for the reason that Iraq didn't want to distract attention from what was happening around Israel?

HANS BLIX:
I don't think we know the reasons for the delay. We have to fit together both our schedules. In any case, we are going to meet now, on the 4th and 5th of July, and we hope to discuss more practical arrangements concerning inspections. The Iraqis have put some nineteen questions to the Secretary-General, many of them dealt with inspection. I think on this occasion we should get down to more practical matters.

JEREMY VINE:
You are going to clash with the American Government, the Defence department particularly, which says that they believe that inspections can be carried out to guarantee an end to Iraq's programme to develop nuclear chemical biological weapons.

HANS BLIX:
But this is a big country, there are many different voices. We have to go by what the United States Government says officially. I hear the Secretary of State saying that a change in regime, in his view, is the best solution. It does not exclude that there could be other solutions. We hear Condoleezza Rice saying that there are no plans for any military action and the US Government supports the idea of inspections so we are planning to do that.

JEREMY VINE:
But what middle ground in all of that, would be for you to give the Iraqi Government a dead line, and to say, "Unless let us in by a certain date, we are just going to say it's impossible".

HANS BLIX:
Well, the organisation are not in a position to take political steps, we are subsidiary to the council. The council could take a decision that Iraq would have to accept inspection in a specific time, but I have not seen any tendency in the council to that effect.

JEREMY VINE:
So what happens next? Can you press forward with an agenda to gets you into Iraq ?

HANS BLIX:
Well, the Iraqis have been wondering, "What is the difference between Unmovic and Unscom?" There are a number of structural differences. I think it is now time for us to say that we are - have been expecting the invitation from you, you are obliged to do so under the resolution of the Security Council and now we must discuss how we land there, to build up the centre again, which it has been decaying since the years when the inspectors were there. There are a number of practical issues, and the criteria for the Iraqis is to co-operate with Unmovic in all respects. And I think that co-operation begins already before the inspectors are there and to ensure that they are in place without any conflicts or frictions.

JEREMY VINE:
It's possible to see why members of the US administration might have difficulties with believing that you will find weapons inside Iraq when you yourself were fooled during the inspection prior to the Gulf War when you failed to find evidence of a nuclear weapons programme we now know was in existence.

HANS BLIX:
The inspections that went on between 1991 and 1999 did uncover a great deal. In the nuclear sphere for instance, I think that the IAA had a good understanding of the whole programme, that they were convinced there was no nuclear structure left. In the other spheres of biological chemical etc, Unscom said, and I think that the US and others agreed, that more weapons were destroyed by Unscom than during the Gulf war. So it is not without results. However, it is true that the Iraqis also cheated. They have had a couple of years now to continue to do so if they wished .

JEREMY VINE:
Sorry to interrupt, but given that prior to the Gulf War, you were, as you admit, fooled, might you not be fooled again?

HANS BLIX:
That was a different story before the Gulf War. The IAA didnot operate under the very rigid and far-reaching rights that the Security Council has given. They operated under the so-called safe-guard agreements, adopted by the states long before the Gulf War. They were the same around the world. They were not allowing the IAA to go to undeclared sites. It was really the parameters. It was really the rules that limited the agency rather than any sloppiness or laxness.

JEREMY VINE:
Is it possible that if you do set a deadline and you say you cannot go into Iraq, you are not going to try, that President Bush goes back into his 'axis of evil' rhetoric by trying to topple Saddam Hussein by force, in which case you would in a sense have chosen the timing of that?

HANS BLIX:
Well, as I said, it's the Security Council that set any deadlines, I see no tendency in that direction. That doesn't mean that, I believe there is hope for an agreement. I see a greater interest on the part of the Iraqis in inspection. That interest has not yet been cultivated in an acceptance of inspection. We will see in early July whether it will come to that.

JEREMY VINE:
You are certain that you are not being manipulated?

HANS BLIX:
Sorry?

JEREMY VINE:
You are certain that you are not being manipulated?

HANS BLIX:
Well, there are those that say that the Iraqis are dragging their feet, and that this is only feigning an interest. I cannot judge. We will meet them. I think they are worried about the new consensus that exists between the P5 in the Security Council, I am sure they are concerned about the threats of the military action. All of this could militate in favour of accepting inspectors.

JEREMY VINE:
Mr Blix, Thank you very much indeed.

This transcript was produced from the teletext subtitles that are generated live for Newsnight. It has been checked against the programme as broadcast, however Newsnight can accept no responsibility for any factual inaccuracies. We will be happy to correct serious errors.

See also:

15 May 02 | Middle East
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