"I don't think it is reasonable to close the door to inspections after three and a half months," Mr. Blix, Executive Chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), said in answer to questions during a briefing of the UN Correspondents Association in New York. He added that he did not think Security Council resolution 1441, adopted in November, foresaw such a short inspection time.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan yesterday ordered the withdrawal of all UN personnel, including UNMOVIC inspectors, after receiving information from the United Kingdom and United States regarding the continued safety and security of UN personnel in Iraq.
Mr. Blix, who is to discuss a work plan of remaining disarmament issues tomorrow at the Security Council, also said the inspectors had never asserted that Iraq had any remaining weapons of mass destruction, only that there were a lot of things unaccounted for. It would be interesting, he added, to see what would come out when people go in and can go anywhere and examine the sort of intelligence the inspectors never had access to.
He also said he did not think Iraq would use chemical or biological weapons in a war with a US-led coalition, although it had the know-how to produce and deliver chemical weapons.
"I think it is unlikely they will do that because I think world public opinion, which they study quite a lot, is in large measure feeling that going to war is too early," he said. "So there is a fair amount of scepticism about armed action. That scepticism would turn immediately around if they used chemical weapons or biological weapons. My guess is they would not."
Asked if Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's government would care if it was about to be overthrown, he said: "Some people care about their reputation even after death."