Refuting US charges in Security Council, Iraq reaffirms commitment to UN inspections

Addressing the Security Council after a presentation by United States Secretary of State Colin Powell of evidence of Iraq's failure to disarm, the Iraqi representative to the United Nations today refuted the US charges and reaffirmed his country's readiness to continue to fully cooperate with UN inspectors.
"The pronouncements in Mr. Powell's statements on weapons of mass destruction are utterly unrelated to the truth. No new information was provided, mere sound recordings that cannot be ascertained as genuine," Ambassador Mohammed A. Aldouri told the Council at the end of its ministerial-level meeting, chaired by Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer of Germany, which currently hold the rotating Presidency of the 15-nation body for the month of February.

Ambassador Aldouri stressed that Iraq was totally free of weapons of mass destruction and that the forthcoming visit this weekend of the chief UN inspectors - Hans Blix of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and Mohamed ElBaradei of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) - "will be a further opportunity to verify and ascertain the validity of [US] allegations."

In a brief, but virtual point-by-point response to Mr. Powell's presentation, Ambassador Aldouri said Iraq had submitted an "accurate, comprehensive and updated" declaration of 12,000 pages, including detailed information on previous Iraqi programmes as well as updated information on Iraqi industries in various fields.

After UN inspections resumed on 27 November 2002, Ambassador Aldouri noted, UNMOVIC and IAEA inspectors have so far carried out 575 inspections covering 321 sites. "Inspectors ascertained that all the allegations... were not true," he said. "This confirms Iraq's declaration that it is free from weapons of mass destruction and that its declaration is truthful and accurate as documented by the two technical agencies entrusted by the Council to undertake that task."

The Iraqi Ambassador also cited recent statements to the press by Mr. Blix that inspectors "did not ascertain any of the scenarios alleged by Powell, in that Iraqi officials were moving proscribed material inside or outside Iraq aiming at concealment." The UNMOVIC chief also confirmed that he did not find enough reasons to believe that Iraq was sending its scientists outside Iraq to prevent them from being interviewed, and that he had no reason to believe US President George W. Bush was correct in his State of the Union address in saying that Iraqi intelligence agents were posing as scientists for the interviews, Mr. Aldouri said.

He dismissed allegations that trucks leave sites prior to the arrival of inspection teams as "a false accusation," noting that inspections occur "suddenly and instantaneously," without prior notification to the Iraqi side. "Furthermore, UNMOVIC and the IAEA have their own sources for satellite imagery and they use helicopters for surveillance and inspection activities," Ambassador Aldouri said. "Therefore, we believe those two agencies are very well-informed of what takes place on the ground in Iraq. It is important for me to remind that programmes for weapons of mass destruction are not like an aspirin pill, easily hidden."

Responding to Mr. Powell's use of intercepted telephone conversations as evidence the Iraqis were taking steps to conceal its weapons programmes, Ambassador Aldouri said scientific and technical progress has reached such a level "that would allow the fabrication of such allegations and would allow for them to be offered in the way that Mr. Powell has presented."

As for the supposed relationship between Iraq and the Al-Qaida organization, Ambassador Aldouri, quoting Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, said, "'If we had a relationship with Al-Qaida and we believed in that relationship, we would not be ashamed to admit it. We have no relationship with Al-Qaida.'"

The Iraqi representative said the clear goal behind today's meeting and Mr. Powell's presentation was to sell the idea of war and aggression against Iraq "without any legal, moral or political justification." He said Iraq offered security and peace, and reiterated its commitment to continue proactive cooperation with the inspector teams "so as to allow them to finish their tasks as soon as possible and verify that Iraq is free of weapons of mass destruction in order to lift the unjust sanctions imposed upon it and ensure respect of its national security."

Speaking afterwards to the press, Ambassador Aldouri said it was obvious that Mr. Powell's remarks did not achieve the results the US Administration had intended. "The Security Council members made it clear that the information provided should be delivered to the inspectors, that the inspection process is successful and should continue," he stressed.

The other clear message was that UN inspections were working and "other means" should not be allowed, he added. "We are committed to proactively cooperate with the inspections as we have done since their return to Iraq."