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Media Advisory 2002/1912 (19 December 2002)

News Update on Iraq Inspections

2002 |IAEA, UN Chiefs Brief Press, 19 December 2002
(Unofficial Transcript)

For full coverage, see the pages on IAEA and Iraq.

Blix: Good morning. Mr. El-Baradei and I had been briefing the [Security] Council on our preliminary assessment of the declaration submitted by Iraq. I also told the Council of this -- about the build-up of our efforts in Iraq, and the first experiences of the inspections. As to the assessment of the declaration, we are consistent in the view that there has been relatively little given in the declaration, by way of evidence, concerning the programmes of weapons of mass destruction. There's been some material concerning the period between 1998 and 2002 in their non-nuclear weapons field. We will evidently continue the analysis and the Council is clear that it wants us to come back sometime in January for a more profound, thorough briefing than we've been able to do so far.

El-Baradei: We have, as Dr. Blix mentioned, we have done our first reporting to the Council. We have indicated that we are at a very initial phase of assessing the report. I referred to it as our reconnaissance phase of looking at the report. Later on we will have to move into the investigation part of our work, visiting more sites, doing more environmental sampling, talking to people. I think we are making, we have both of us indicated, we are making good progress in having access to sites. Iraq is cooperating well in terms of process. We both, I think, agree that we still need much more cooperation from Iraq in terms of substance, in terms of uncovering of evidence, to exonerate themselves that they are clean from weapons of mass destruction. And I think that's a challenge for both of them and us. If they come with additional information, then our task will be much shorter, much easier. Our conclusion would be much more credible. And I think there was a sense in the Council that Iraq needs to come up with additional information. We both certainly would like to see more information from Iraq. We are going to report regularly to the Council. We will have another meeting with the Council some time in early January, I think, and then we will come with a status report around the 27th of January, I believe.

Question: Do you have a feeling that the declaration has omissions in which Iraq has not provided information that would allow you to account for weapons of mass destruction that were reported by UNSCOM, for example, at the end of its inspection period?

Blix: There were a lot of open questions at the end of 1998 which are registered by UNSCOM and also by the Amorin Report, as you say. And these had not been answered by evidence in the new declaration. And this we are pointing out. The absence of that evidence means, of course, that one cannot have confidence that there do not remain weapons of mass destruction. Evidence would be needed for that purpose and we will continue to look for that in the inspection process.

Question: Could you be more specific about what these items are that you are looking for, that you knew were there in 1998 that are not in this declaration? And a second question is how is Iraq treating this? Are they saying simply they no longer have this, it never existed, they got rid of it?

Blix: Well, it is a long catalogue which would bore you to listen to here and you can read it in your own newspapers most of the time.

Question: (inaudible)

Blix: No, you have questions of anthrax, you have questions of munitionsetc. It's a long catalogue and we will repeat that also in our analysis.

El Baradei: We probably can just give you an example. There was report by Iraq during our meeting in Baghdad that there were efforts to procure aluminium tubes. There is nothing in the report to give us details about this effort to procure. We need more details on it. I think that in Dr. Blix's area, for example, we know there was a lot of production of different chemical agents, for example. But there is no evidence that these agents have been destroyed. And I think that's the kind of evidence we need. We need either to see documents, we need people to speak to us and confirm that these things have been destroyed or we need even to see [a] sample of that, of what has been destroyed. The more we see, the more credible assurance we can provide to the Council, the more the Council can come to closure on this issue and come to the conclusion that Iraq has been disarmed. That's the objective and the more we get from Iraq, the more we can provide assurances to the Council, the more the Council can state categorically yes, Iraq has been disarmed.

Blix: Wait a minute, I will give you another example, since he gave you two of them. About anthrax ? well, Iraq declared earlier that they had produced 8,500 litres of anthrax and there was not sufficient evidence to demonstrate that it was limited to 8,500. If it was so, we must ask ourselves was there more. Then they declare ?.. UNSCOM actually calculated that, with the capacity that they [Iraq] had, they could have produced about three times as much, something like 24,000 litres. Then Iraq declared that they had destroyed it all and there was some evidence given that they had destroyed some of it. There was not sufficient evidence to show that all was destroyed. Hence, there is a question, is there still some anthrax in Iraq? And we would need more evidence, either by someone who participated in the destruction or in the way of records as to that production, etc. This is the kind of questions that we have on many items.

Question: You have been studying this report now, both agencies, for the last few days ?

Blix: and nights.

Question: ? and nights, okay great. Now you have raised a few questions. You have found gaps, omissions. What is the initial reactions you find from Iraq? Do they tell you, okay bring your next questions on and we will answer them, or are they saying this is the declaration, take it or leave it? What is your initial [reaction] from the Iraqis. Are they cooperating fully?

El Baradei: As I said, Iraq has been opening doors to us, Iraq has been giving us immediate access to sites. However, we have not gotten what we need in terms of additional evidence and clearly we are going through our detailed analysis of the report. We will go back to Iraq. We will clearly ask lots of questions. We will expect that we will get answers and hopefully additional evidence.

Question: (inaudible)

El Baradei: I will have to wait until we do the analysis. I will have wait until we go to Iraq and we are not optimistic or pessimistic. We are trying to provide objective assessments.

Blix: One should say, in addition, I think, that an opportunity was missed in the declaration to give a lot of evidence. And well, they can still provide it and I hope they provide it to us orally, but it would have been better if it had been in the declaration.

Question: Are you dissatisfied with the report at this moment, and what is the next step you are going to take?

Blix: Well, as I said, it would have been much better if the report had provided a lot of evidence and much of it was repetition of what has been said before. So I don't think that you can put together a report of 10,000 pages within one month without taking a lot of old material. But there is also some new material and we are analysing that, mostly relating to non-weapons related activities.

Question: (inaudible)

Blix: Well, we don't know.

Question: (inaudible)

Blix: We have about 90 inspectors down there and they can also ask ?.. Well they opened that. Mr. Baradei said they opened the doors. The cooperation on proceedings, on procedure has been good. They have been helpful, helped us also in the terms of logistics - we have been setting up an office in Mosul. And on all these scores, access, prompt access, yes, there has been good cooperation, presumably an instruction to their people to let us in, in sites of the type we have visited so far.

Question: (inaudible)

Blix: Well, we still have these outstanding questions from the past, where evidence is needed.

Question: Are you going to put formally a list of new questions to the Iraqis in the next few weeks, and what's going to happen? Are you going to ask them formally ?

Blix: Well, I think we need to come a little further in the analysis first, but certainly the questions which are open will still remain to be put.

Baradei: It's a continuous process. I mean, it's not just one list of questions, yes, answer these questions. I mean we go through analysis, we ask questions as we go though the process and it will take us time before we come, as I said, to a conclusion on the veracity of the declaration. But we are going to keep the Council regularly informed.

Question: There's been a lot of talk about the need for countries to come forward with intelligence. Clearly, the US has given several hints. They have stuff to give. Have they come forward? Have they told you when they'll come forward?

Blix: I am hopeful that we will get more intelligence, but we won't tell you when and what.

Question: ? Iraqi declaration, if you could? Also how accurate do you think this declaration is compared to what you were expecting?

Blix: No, I don't think we are. We are not a stooge.

Question: There were cases of closed doors -- once last Friday and one, I understand, yesterday. The closed doors ? how do you see that and does it show you anything?

Blix: Well, there was an occasion, I think, this was in a hospital or something. This was on a Friday, the Muslim day of rest, and the place was practically empty. There were some doors inside to offices which were closed, so they didn't have the keys. The Iraqis offered to break down the doors, and we suggested no, it might not be a good idea. Instead, we suggested, and they agreed, that we seal the doors until the Saturday morning.

Question: Yesterday, was there a case yesterday?

Blix: I think that's enough for the moment.