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Blix: Iraq can't account for deadly gas, germs

Hans Blix
Hans Blix

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Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix addressed the U.N. Security Council with delivery of the weapon inspections report on Iraq (January 27)
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(CNN) -- The chief U.N. weapons inspector said on Monday that Iraq could not account for stocks of anthrax and a deadly nerve gas that it said it had destroyed.

Hans Blix made his remarks to the U.N. Security Council, which in November passed a resolution ordering Baghdad to disclose all weapons of mass destruction and related materials.

Iraq provided access to all sites U.N. weapons inspectors have wanted to visit, but had not reached a "genuine acceptance" of its obligation to disarm, Blix said.

The progress report, which followed 60 days of weapons inspections, indicated that there were discrepancies between what inspectors found and what Iraq declared in a report to the United Nations.

For example, Baghdad admitted producing 8,500 liters of anthrax, but said they were destroyed in 1991, Blix said.

"[Yet] there are strong indications that Iraq produced more anthrax than it declared, and that at least some of this was retained over the declared destruction date. It might still exist," Blix said.

Moreover, Iraqi documents indicate that Iraq produced a higher grade of the poison gas VX than previously admitted, which might have been used in weapons production, Blix said.

In addition, Blix said several thousand chemical rockets like those inspectors discovered earlier this month remain unaccounted for, and about 3,000 pages of documents relating largely to uranium enrichment programs are in the possession of an Iraqi scientist.

"Any further sign of the concealment of documents would be serious," he said.

Blix also said Iraq has not allowed inspectors to question scientists in private, without an Iraqi government official present.

Nevertheless, Blix suggested that continued inspections could be valuable in achieving the goal of disarming Iraq. Inspectors have developed an organization inside Iraq that allows them to move on short notice by road and by air. So far, inspectors have made 300 visits to 230 sites, he said.

Annan 'not given up on peace'

The report drew immediate response from the United States, which has massed troops in the Persian Gulf region for a potential military confrontation with Iraq, possibly without U.N. support.

The Bush administration has said that it has solid evidence that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction in clear defiance of U.N. resolutions.

"The report released in New York this morning shows clearly Iraq is not complying," said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.

John Negroponte, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said the Security Council "must face its responsibilities and consider what message council irresolution sends to Iraq."

Iraq maintained that it is cooperating with inspectors. In a letter to the Security Council, Foreign Minister Naji Sabri said it "is acting in good faith" and "firmly resolved to fulfill its obligations under the Security Council resolutions."

Iraq's U.N. ambassador, Mohammed Aldouri, said Iraq already has answered the questions Blix raised. "The result is to prove that Iraq is clear of weapons of mass destruction," he said.

The United States has warned in recent days that "time is running out" for Baghdad to disarm. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan backed calls for more time. He told reporters Monday that "I have not given up on peace, and you shouldn't either."

Also on Monday, the Security Council heard a progress report from Mohamed ElBaradei, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, who said inspectors found no evidence that Iraq has restarted its nuclear weapons program.

The council later met in closed session and planned to debate the issue this week. The group asked Blix and ElBaradei to report back on February 14.

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