Council sees possible ease on Iraq

UPn 10/13/98 7:55 PM

UNITED NATIONS, Oct. 13 (UPI) -- The director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency says there is no indication Iraq has any practical capability to produce "weapon-usable nuclear material."

Mohamed El-Baradei admitted today there are a few outstanding questions that remain unanswered, but said they won't impede implementing the next steps of ongoing monitoring and verification. In his biannual report to the U.N. Security Council today, he insisted those steps can only be implemented after Iraq resumes cooperation with arms inspectors.

After a briefing by executive chairman of the U.N. Special Commission on the disarmament of Iraq, Richard Butler, the council today said it "focused on the need for Iraq to return to full cooperation if forward progress was to be made."

Council President Jeremy Greenstock, the British Ambassador, said later that, "on the chemical weapons and missiles files, members of the council felt that there were not many items to be resolved, if that cooperation is forthcoming."

But he also said members of the panel felt that on the biological weapons file "rather more work was needed, which depended crucially on full disclosure by Iraq, including information on biological weapons which they already say they have."

El-Baradei also said that with "all available, credible evidence" it is relevant to note that this same information provides "no indication that Iraq has assembled nuclear weapons with or without fissile cores."

He pointed out that 'no indication' is not the same as 'non- existence.' It is for that reason that although a verification process of this scale can provide credible assurance it can not provide a 'clean bill of health.'

The director-general said, the agency has found "a technically coherent picture of Iraq's clandestine nuclear program; second, Iraq's known nuclear weapons-related assets have been destroyed, removed or rendered harmless and the related infrastructure is under ongoing monitoring and verification."

El-Baradei said, "the few remaining questions" included status of the 1991 nuclear weapon design and related drawings and the extent of "external assistance" to the clandestine program. He was also anxious to learn "the timing and modalities" of criminal laws Iraq would have to adopt to comply with Security Council resolutions.

On Aug. 5 Iraq unilaterally announced it was suspending cooperation with the inspectors from the IAEA and UNSCOM.

In turn, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan suggested a comprehensive review of Iraqi compliance with sanctions and the results of inspections to see just how much more was needed before the Iraq embargo could be lifted.

But the Security Council said there could be no review, even the twice-yearly one which would be under way now, without resumption of cooperation.

Copyright 1998 by United Press International.
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