LONDON – Threats of invasion will not persuade Saddam Hussein to allow weapons inspectors to return to Iraq, the head of the United Nations' monitoring team said on Sunday.
Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix said his team was eager to contribute to a "non-belligerent solution" to the current standoff but added that could be difficult if Saddam thought a military strike was inevitable.
"If the Iraqis conclude that an invasion by someone is inevitable then they might conclude that it is not very meaningful to have inspections," he told the British Broadcasting Corp.
The United States has accused Iraq of trying to rebuild its banned weapons programs and of supporting terrorism and has called for Saddam's ouster.
The Bush administration says Saddam's pursuit of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons in defiance of its disarmament pledge after the 1991 Gulf War is a powerful case for a regime change.
Asked if he expected to find a "big weapons program" if he was allowed into Iraq, Blix declined to speculate.
"I'm not assuming at all that the Iraqis have retained weapons of mass destruction. At the same time, it would evidently be naive of me to conclude that they don't," he said.
Blix added that it was still possible his team would be allowed into Iraq under terms acceptable to the United Nations.
"If inspectors are allowed in and if they are given really unfettered access with no delays, etc. then I think this might play an important role and we would be eager to do that and to help toward a non-belligerent solution," he said.