UNITED NATIONS – With 17 U.N. weapons inspectors arriving in Baghdad on Monday, Hans Blix addressed the U.N. Security Council, stating that Iraq has pledged full cooperation.
However, Blix said he warned Iraq that it must provide convincing evidence if it maintains — as it did last week — that it has no illegal weapons programs.
Iraqi officials said they intend to cooperate fully with U.N. inspectors who will resume work on Wednesday after nearly four years, Blix told the Security Council.
But on the critical issue of access, Iraqi officials remarked during talks last week in Baghdad "that the entry into a presidential site or a ministry was not exactly the same thing as entry into a factory," Blix said, according to his briefing notes.
The resolution allows inspectors to go anywhere at anytime, including presidential sites, and Blix said he stressed this point to the Iraqis and told them his teams would exercise this right. "We said we would inspect all sites on an equal basis," he told a news conference afterwards.
He told reporters later that two months after U.N. inspectors left Iraq in December 1998, they produced a document with outstanding questions about Saddam Hussein's weapons programs.
For example, Iraq provided inspectors with figures about their production of mustard gas, a nerve agent, but "these figures do not give a full account."
"If they want to be believed they better provide either the weapons if they remain, or better accounts," he said, and this holds true for other weapons programs as well.
Blix said he would have 100 inspectors on the ground by Christmas and that logistics were being rapidly strengthened. He also wants to open a field office in the northern city of Mosul "without delay."
"Thanks to assistance from the government of New Zealand we already have communications people and medics in place and before the end of the week, we may have the first of eight helicopters in Baghdad."
Blix told the council that the Iraqis had expressed "some uncertainty," about how it should prepare a declaration of all nuclear, chemical and biological programs.
Iraq is mandated to provide the council and inspectors with the declaration by Dec. 8.
Some of the Iraqi concerns appeared to be technical, including how detailed the submissions should be on Iraq's petrochemical industry.
"Clearly, the most important thing was that whatever there existed by way of weapons programs and proscribed items should be fully declared," Blix said he told the Iraqis.
"I added that four years had passed since the last inspections and that many governments believed that weapons of mass destruction programs remained in Iraq. The council had wanted to offer Iraq a last opportunity," he said.
"If the Iraqi side were to state — as it still did at our meeting — that there were no such programs, it would need to provide convincing documentary or other evidence," he told the council.
Blix said he urged Iraq to make a complete declaration and "to look into stores and stocks" to ensure that everything is reported on Dec. 8.
Under the resolution a false statement or omission in the declaration, coupled with an Iraqi failure to cooperate with inspectors, would constitute a new "material breach" which would be reported to the council for possible action.
Asked whether he was being pushed by the United States to be more aggressive and confrontational, Blix said, "We may not be the brightest in the world, but I can tell you we're in nobody's pockets."
Blix and chief U.N. nuclear watchdog Mohamed ElBaradei led an advance team to Baghdad last Monday to reopen offices and arrange logistics for the inspection teams. The first inspectors arrived in Baghdad on Monday.
Fox News' Eric Shawn and The Associated Press contributed to this report.