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The man from the UN
Colonel Terry Taylor
"I am no advocate of war or military action. That said, the threat of substantial military force is a powerful tool."

Former UN weapons inspector Colonel Terry Taylor

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Colonel Terry Taylor, a former UN inspector, spent six years investigating whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Despite denials and attempts to obstruct this work, the Iraqis eventually admitted to such a programme.

"I went to Iraq to search for evidence of biological weapons. It was like looking for a needle in a haystack.

We needed to track personnel, materials and equipment. What made it difficult was that the things we were looking for could be hidden in legitimate facilities. A large-scale fermenter, for instance, might be used in dairy factories, or to make animal feed or bio-pesticides. And during inspections I was pushed, shoved, and had papers snatched from my hands.

We had some successes but it took four-and-a-half years to produce enough evidence to force the Iraqis to admit that they did indeed have a biological weapons programme. That just shows how difficult and challenging the task was, the enormous effort the Iraqis took in hiding this programme.

At first, while the Iraqis were in no way co-operative, the door had been opened just enough to make the inspections work.

It helped that the international community was more or less unanimous that it had to be done - that, and the very real threat of military force if the Iraqis didn't co-operate.

But from 1996, when the UN Security Council was divided, it became harder and harder. By the time the inspectors were effectively thrown out in 1998, there was zero co-operation from the Iraqis.

I felt alarmed for the future, as well as frustrated and disappointed that we didn't finish the job, that we didn't find and destroy everything we were looking for. I have no doubt that Saddam poses a threat, for his is a cynical and brutal regime.

We're now in a situation where the last chance needs to be offered to Iraq to have the inspectors return - unconditional, unfettered, unobstructed. This would allay some of the concerns of the international community - and give the Iraqis a chance to demonstrate to us all what they claim.

I am no advocate of war or military action, even though I am a former army man. That said, the threat of substantial military force is a powerful tool, and something that has been hanging over Iraq for the past year. That is why I think we are now hearing Saddam talk of letting weapons inspectors back in.

I just hope that we donít have to use military force."

Photographs by Melanie Burford

Some of your comments so far:

Saddam is clearly not of a sound mind, but is he really about to unleash chemical and nuclear weapons on the West knowing that the retaliation if he did would be overwhelming? Diplomacy must be exhausted before any direct action is taken.
Chris Gawor, London

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