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Blix Urges Iraqi Commissions for Results

February 11, 2003

UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix urged two Iraqi commissions searching for banned weapons material and new documents to ``produce results″ before he reports to the U.N. Security Council on Friday.

``We are of the view that they need to work very fast, very prompt, to come forward and put matters on the table to be helpful,″ he told reporters after briefing Australian Prime Minister John Howard on his weekend trip to Baghdad.

The reports by Blix and nuclear inspection chief Mohamed ElBaradei assessing Iraq’s cooperation are considered critical to the U.N. Security Council’s determination of next steps in Iraq. The council remains sharply divided over pursuing peace or going to war, with both sides taking the offensive ahead of the inspectors reports.

While France, Russia and Germany called for more time Monday for beefed-up inspections and diplomacy, the United States and Britain stood by their position that Saddam Hussein’s final opportunity to disarm peacefully is nearing an end.

The two inspection chiefs have said their Baghdad trip produced the beginning of a change in Iraq’s attitude _ but no breakthrough.

Asked what he would like to see Iraq do between Tuesday and his report to the council on Friday, Blix said: ``I hope these commissions will produce results very promptly. That will be helpful.″

In Baghdad over the weekend, the Iraqis gave the chief inspectors documents said to clarify lingering questions about 1980s chemical and biological weapons.

Iraq had already set up a commission to search for chemical warheads after inspectors discovered a dozen, and it announced over the weekend that the commission would now look for all banned weapons and the material to make them. It also announced that it was setting up a second commission to search for documents.

Blix had complained in a Security Council report last month that the Iraqis were not cooperating on ``substance″ _ by supplying evidence to clear up remaining questions about VX nerve agent, anthrax and some other deadly weapons developed in the 1980s.

At a news conference after Sunday’s sessions, Blix and ElBaradei reported receiving documents _ the Iraqis said there were 24 _ offering ``explanations,″ if not hard evidence, regarding outstanding issues on anthrax, VX nerve gas and Iraqi missile development. Blix said the documents would have to be studied by his experts to determine their value.

Asked Tuesday whether there was any new evidence in the documents, Blix told The Associated Press: ``There was at least one new document handed over, and there were ... a number of papers on central issues, and discussions between our experts and their experts on these central issues.″

The inspectors had hoped to leave Baghdad with approval for surveillance flights and an announcement that Iraq would finally pass legislation banning weapons of mass destruction. But Iraq’s acceptance of the flights and an announcement that the legislation would be passed next week only came Monday from Iraq’s U.N. Ambassador Mohammed Al-Douri.

Blix said the Iraqis have accepted three types of surveillance flights _ by American U-2 aircraft, French Mirages, and Russian planes.

American officials have made clear that U.S. President George W. Bush intends to use the inspectors reports to force a decision from the council: Back the U.S. push to disarm Saddam or stand aside as Bush leads a coalition to do so. Britain is preparing a new resolution that would authorize force against Iraq, diplomats have said.

Bush dismissed Iraq’s acceptance of surveillance flights as part of its campaign of deception. After meeting in Washington with Australia’s Howard, a staunch U.S. ally, the president said ``Saddam Hussein has to disarm. If he doesn’t, we will disarm him.″

On the opposing side, France, Russia and Germany issued a joint declaration in Paris calling for strengthened weapons inspections and more diplomacy.

``Nothing today justifies a war,″ French President Jacques Chirac said after meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin in Paris on Tuesday. ``This region really does not need another war.″

``We are against the war,″ Putin said, standing beside him. ``Both of our countries insist on the need to solve the problem and the crisis diplomatically, and we consider that ... careless action could lead to unknown results.″

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