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Bush Spokesman: Iraq Has Banned Weapons

VOA News
10 Jan 2003, 07:12 UTC

The United States says Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, even though United Nations inspectors have yet to find any evidence of banned biological, chemical or nuclear arms.

White House spokesman Ari Fleisher told reporters Thursday the Bush administration knows "for a fact" that Iraq has such weapons, but has managed to hide them. The problem with hidden guns, Mr. Fleisher said, is that you cannot "see their smoke."

Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix earlier reported to the U.N. Security Council that inspectors have not found any "smoking gun" in six weeks of searches. However, Mr. Blix said there was "no guarantee" that prohibited weapons are not being held or produced.

Mr. Blix called Iraq's recently-submitted weapons declaration "rich in volume, but poor in new information" about whether Baghdad had destroyed its dangerous weapons since inspectors left Iraq four years ago. Iraq insists its report to the Security Council is complete.

Mr. Blix told the Council that prompt access inspection teams have been given by Iraq is not sufficient to prove that nothing is hidden.

The chief nuclear inspector Mohammed ElBaradei (of the International Atomic Energy Agency) told the Council that inspectors have not been allowed to interview Iraqi military scientists in private, despite promises of cooperation from Baghdad.

There are reports that inspection teams may ask to fly the Iraqi scientists to Cyprus for the interviews.

Mr. ElBaradei and Mr. Blix say they need more time to carry out inspections. Their official report to the Security Council on two months of searches is due January 27.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Thursday on NBC that date is not related to any possible attack on Iraq. Mr. Powell says Washington is now providing U.N. inspectors with "significant" intelligence on Iraqi weapons programs.

The top U.N. weapons inspectors also say Iraq has failed to answer outstanding questions about missing supplies of explosives and chemical agents.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Negroponte, calls Iraq's weapons report a deliberate effort to deceive by omission. Britain's embassador Jeremy Greenstock says Iraq is missing an opportunity to clear up questions that were not answered in the report.


Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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