BY ROHAN PEARCE
The report by Hans Blix, head of UN weapons inspections in Iraq, to the UN Security Council on March 7 was a stunning blow to the US/British/Australian coalition's "case" for war.
While Blix stated that Iraq had to produce more "credible accounts" of its unilateral destruction of its chemical and biological weapons in the early 1990s, he commended Baghdad's initiatives to do so — such as forming committees to scour the country for documentation of the weapons' destruction.
Iraq's cooperation could be described as "proactive", said Blix. "There is a significant Iraqi effort underway to clarify a major source of uncertainty as to the quantities of biological and chemical weapons, which were unilaterally destroyed in 1991."
Blix concluded from this that "one can hardly avoid the impression that, after a period of somewhat reluctant cooperation, there has been an acceleration of initiatives from the Iraqi side since the end of January".
Blix's report also noted that interviews with Iraq's scientists have been conducted without the presence of Iraqi officials or taping devices. He told the council that "the Iraqi side seems to have encouraged interviewees not to request the presence of Iraqi officials".
On March 6, US Secretary of State Colin Powell told a forum in Washington that "destroying a handful of [al Samoud 2 missiles] here under duress and only after you've pressed and pressed and pressed, and you can't avoid it [is] not the kind of compliance that was intended" by the Security Council. However, Blix described the destruction of the missiles — which a panel of experts believe can exceed the 150km-limit mandated by Security Council resolutions by 30km — "constitutes a substantial measure of disarmament".
Blix also reported that there is no evidence for the existence of "mobile bioweapons laboratories" or that Iraq is moving weapons of mass destruction around the country to avoid inspectors — directly contradicting claims by Powell and US President George Bush.
The report ended with a veiled attack on the US-led war drive. Blix told the council: "Even with a proactive Iraqi attitude, induced by continued outside pressure, it would still take some time to verify sites and items, analyse documents, interview relevant persons and draw conclusions."
Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspection team, also gave Iraq a positive assessment when he reported to the Security Council.
ElBaradei's report concluded that there is no evidence that Iraq has resumed nuclear weapons activities at any of the sites inspected. He debunked key British and US accusations that Iraq had tried to import uranium from Niger since 1990. ElBaradei said that the documents that were supposed to show Iraq's procurement of uranium from Niger had been falsified.
Finally, ElBaradei definitively stated that aluminium tubes imported by Iraq — which Washington continues to cite as evidence of Iraq's quest for nuclear weapons — were not for the construction of a gas centrifuge to enrich uranium. ElBaradei's report stated that "as previously reported, Iraq has maintained that these tubes were sought for rocket production" and IAEA inspectors have concluded that there is no evidence Iraq intended — or could — use them for the production of a gas centrifuge.
On March 7, the president of the UN General Assembly Jan Kavan, a former deputy prime minister of the Czech Republic, stated that there is no justification for a war on Iraq, and that such action is not mandated by UN Security Council resolution 1441 (which established the current round of weapons inspections).
From Green Left Weekly, March 12, 2003.
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