Chief inspector criticizes U.S. criticisms of him

Fred Feldman ffeldman at
Tue Nov 19 09:02:07 MST 2002

Washington's whispering campaign against Blix is rank ingratitude toward
someone who backed Washington's push for a prowar resolution in the Security
Council, but war is hell.  Washington is putting pressure on the inspectors,
who are not going to find much in the way of "weapons of mass destruction"
since they aren't there, to back Washington in accepting CIA and Pentagon
claims as proof positive that Iraq is "hiding" them and thus in "material
breach."  Keep in mind that if Iraq had significant viable "weapons of mass
destruction," the United States would be in much less of a enthusiastic rush
to go to war there.  The fact that North Korea has some "weapons of mass
destruction" and everybody knows it is a major reason for the comparatively
measured and hesitant pace to the U.S. war drive against North Korea.  It is
Iraq's apparent helplessness, not its military power, that makes it an
almost irresistible target for U.S. imperialism.
Fred Feldman

Guardian | As arms inspectors arrive, row erupts over US smears:

As arms inspectors arrive, row erupts over US smears
Team leader says attacks by hawks 'unhelpful'

Helena Smith in Larnaca and Ewen MacAskill
Tuesday November 19, 2002
The Guardian

The United Nations chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, yesterday accused
hawks in Washington, who are bent on going to war with Iraq, of conducting a
smear campaign against him.

The extent of the tension between Mr Blix and elements of the US
administration burst into the open on the day that he led UN weapons
inspectors back to Baghdad for the first time in four years to renew their
search for chemical, biological and nuclear-related weapons.

Key figures in the Bush administration have criticised Mr Blix in recent
weeks, claiming he is too weak to stand up to the Iraqi president, Saddam
Hussein, and that he may fail to find the weapons that the CIA claims have
been hidden by the Iraqis.

In an interview with the Guardian in Cyprus, the last staging post before
his flight to Baghdad, Mr Blix rounded on his critics. Asked whether he
thought US hawks were behind the smear campaign, Mr Blix said: "You can say
there's some truth in that judgment."

Mr Blix and the head of the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA),
Mohammed el-Baradei, who will join the inspections, later arrived in Baghdad
aboard a cargo plane with the black letters of the UN painted on its side.
Amid chaotic scenes at the airport, Iraqi and Arab journalists pressed the
inspectors on whether they expected friction with the US. The inspectors
insisted they did not expect it.

Mr Blix's report, which will be presented to the UN security council early
next year, could be the deciding factor in whether or not there is war in
Iraq. The US whispering campaign against Mr Blix, a former Swedish diplomat,
may be designed to undercut any report that is favourable to Iraq.

The US vice-president, Dick Cheney, and the defence secretary, Donald
Rumsfeld, have both said they do not believe the inspectors will succeed in
disarming president Saddam, and their aides have anonomously briefed against
Mr Blix who failed to detect Iraq's nuclear programme in the 1980s when he
was head of the IAEA.

Richard Perle, a Pentagon adviser and an associate of Mr Rumsfeld, said in
London last week: "If it were up to me, on the strength of his previous
record, I wouldn't have chosen Hans Blix."

In his first response, Mr Blix said yesterday: "I haven't seen the criticism
myself but I have heard about it. I don't see the point of criticising
inspections that have not taken place... it's not very meaningful."

He described the accusations that he was not up to job as "not very
meaningful, and certainly unhelpful."

One of his team also dismissed the criticism, rejecting the allegation that
Mr Blix had failed to find evidence of the nuclear programme."That's
absolutely wrong. Back then inspectors were only allowed to visit sites that
were declared," the inspector said. He added that the powers now available
to the inspectors, such as the ability to visit sites without prior notice,
did not apply before the 1991 Gulf war.

Washington's alarm over Mr Blix intensified after a recent speech in which
he said he favoured cooperation with the Iraqis rather than confrontation.
His colleagues said Mr Blix was acutely aware of the animosity aroused by
the last team of inspectors who were accused by Iraq of abrasive behaviour
and of spying for the US.

The inspectors, who sought and destroyed Iraqi biological, chemical and
nuclear-related weapons after the Gulf war, abandoned Baghdad in December
1998, claiming Iraqis were obstructing their work.

Mr Blix, 72, who came back from retirement to take over the job, has done
much to change the culture of how inspectors work.

The 26-strong UN team was formally welcomed at the airport by General Hosam
Amin, head of the Iraqi monitoring directorate, a group of scientists,
engineers and military personnel.

Mr Blix and Mr el-Baradei held talks with Gen Amin and his officials last
night. Mr Blix and Mr el-Baradei are due to leave Iraq tomorrow after talks
with Iraqi officials.

The advance team that arrived with them will prepare the office,
accommodation and communications for the arrival of the inspectors next
week. Mr Blix said preliminary inspections could resume next Wednesday, with
full-scale checks starting after Iraq files a declaration of banned weapons
programmes, if any, by December 8.

The arrival of the UN team coincided with air attacks on Iraqi defensive
positions. The Iraqis fired back, a move the US insists contravenes the UN
resolution passed this month.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2002

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