In a pair of reports to the United Nations Security Council, the chief weapons inspectors reported that Iraq has failed to fully cooperate. But they said there is no new evidence that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. Chief nuclear inspector Mohamed El Baradei is requesting inspectors be given several more months to complete their work.
El Baradei also said his inspectors had found no evidence that Iraq has resumed the nuclear program it discontinued in the early 1990s.
The New York Times reported: "The International Atomic Energy Agency’s report that Iraq has not resumed its nuclear program has challenged one of the Bush administration’s main arguments for taking military action to topple the Iraqi government."
In October President Bush outlined the Iraq-nuclear connection:
"The evidence indicates that Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program," Bush said. "Saddam Hussein has held numerous meetings with Iraqi nuclear scientists, a group he calls his `nuclear mujahedeen’–his nuclear holy warriors. Satellite photographs reveal that Iraq is rebuilding facilities at sites that have been part of its nuclear program in the past. Iraq has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes and other equipment needed for gas centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons."
But inspectors said there is no such evidence that proved Iraq was developing nuclear or any other type of weapons of mass destruction.
Chief inspector Hans Blix was critical of Iraq though. He said, "Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance, not even today, of the disarmament which was demanded of it and which it needs to carry out to win the confidence of the world and to live in peace."
But Blix went on to say that it is too early to tell if Iraq has disarmed or not. To date inspectors have carried out 300 inspections to more than 230 different sites, including universities, military bases, presidential sites and private homes. The searches have produced no smoking guns.
The Bush Administration said the report proves Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein does not want to cooperate. And Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell warned that time was running out for Iraq. White House spokesman, Ari Fleischer, dismissed the work of inspectors saying it would take them another 300 years to complete a full inspection.
To help its case the Bush Administration is planning to declassify some intelligence information that shows Iraq has moved and hid banned weapons from UN inspectors. President Bush may use tonight’s State of the Union address to outline the administration’s view on Iraq.
The international response has been mixed. Representatives from France, Russia, China and Germany said the reports demonstrated that inspections are working and should be allowed to continue. Meanwhile British foreign secretary, Jack Straw, said for the first time that Iraq was in "material breach" of UN demands for it to disarm.
U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan added that inspectors needed more time to get their work done."
Meanwhile in Washington top Democrats Senate Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle and his House counterpart, Rep. Nancy Pelosi charged that Bush has yet to make the case for war against Iraq.
- Hans Blix, head of the UN weapons inspection team.
- Mohamed El Baradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
- Gen. Colin Powell, Secretary of State.
- Dumisani Kumalo, South African ambassador to the United Nations and chairman of the 118-member Non-Aligned Movement.
- Mohammed al-Douri, Iraqi Ambassador to the United Nations.
- Phyllis Bennis, fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington DC, specializing in Middle East and United Nations issues She is the author of the book ??Before and After: U.S. Foreign Policy and the September 11th Crisis.
- Andreas Zumach, Geneva-based UN correspondent with the German newspaper Die Tageszeitung. Last month Zumach obtained an unedited copy of Iraq’s 12,000-page report to the United Nations, including portions on how Iraq acquired its weapon capability from Germany, the U.S. and others.