NEW YORK – Iraq on Sunday pointed the finger at U.N. weapons inspectors for not helping to clarify what type of information to include in the declaration submitted this weekend and insisted the information given to the inspectors accurately reflects the status of its weapons program.
Brigadier Amer Al-Saadi, science adviser to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, gave some details to reporters Sunday about the content of the declaration, which contains about 12,000 pages of information on Iraq's past and present weapons programs.
He challenged U.S. officials or anyone else to prove Iraq possesses prohibited arms when it is telling the world it does not.
"If they have anything to the contrary, let them come up with it," Al-Saadi said. "Why play this game?"
Citing section 1441 of the U.N. Security Resolution passed Nov. 8 which authorized the weapons inspections of Saddam's many potential weaponry sites and requires Iraq to regularly submit declarations of its past and present weapons programs, Al-Saadi pointed out what he considered "mistakes" and "inaccuracies."
"We are not even allowed one inaccuracy in this resolution," he said, later characterizing the weapons inspections as, "some things are like medicine - bitter pills."
He said the specific section of the resolution, which calls for Iraq to detail what weapons it has — including ballistic missiles, delivery systems like unmanned aerial vehicles and dispersal systems — is too broad and encompasses many industries that pose no threat to the international community.
"At best this is vague," Al-Saadi said.
He said the resolution, as worded, would mean more than 800 sites in Iraq - including breweries, fertilizing plants and sewage and water treatment plants - would need to be inspected. Even private sector businesses that have what is considered "dual-use equipment" - which could be used for both civilian and military-like uses, such as hospitals - are subject to inspections, he said.
Al-Saadi said Iraq asked U.N. weapons inspections chief Hans Blix and the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for help to clarify the language so Iraq would have a better idea of what information it was supposed to give the U.N. Security Council.
"To our surprise, they distanced themselves from the resolution," saying they didn't craft the paragraph, Al-Saadi said. "It means there are different opinions and they do not want to give us advice and do not want to be quoted by us … so the confusion remains."
He said it was "quite obvious" Blix and the chief of the IAEA weren't consulted on the wording of the resolution to which they are in charge of enforcing.
Al-Saadi also gave more details as to what exactly was included in the long-awaited, but not surprising declaration that claimed Saddam and his regime have no weapons of mass destruction.
"We hope that it will satisfy because it is currently adequate ... it is truthful," Al-Saadi said.
Copies of the declaration were given to UNMOVIC - the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, which has been designated the depository for the declaration - the IEAE and the U.N. Security Council.
But Iraq is concerned that once Security Council members get their hands on the declaration, it will be subject to public scrutiny. Council rules include placing documents in archives for public access.
"If this material is distributed to the Security Council, it means effectively it is in the public domain," Al-Saadi said. "This means that the Security Council is participating in the proliferation of material, sensitive in that area."
A letter accompanying the declaration from Iraqi officials even notes the "sensitive material" contained in the test, particularly that concerning research and development, designs and production of agents and weapons.
It is not clear as to when members of the Security Council will be given copies of the declaration. Blix has said it may take time to go through the material, translate it and submit it to the full council in a form that would not aid in the proliferation of sensitive material.
"This problem is still pending," Al-Saadi said.
The first part of the declaration details past weapons programs in Iraq up until 1991 in chronological order, the Iraqi official said. It details the financial allocations and procurement for certain programs, among other things, as well as details on various technologies and processes such as the separation of uranium isotopes, which can be used to create an atomic bomb.
The nuclear program details take up 2,000 pages and include Iraq's history of enrichment by gaseous diffusion and centrifusion, its chemical enrichment program and laser isotope separation activities.
Effectively separating isotopes of a chemical element has uses ranging from medicine to energy to weapons applications. Traditionally, isotope separation has been performed through the techniques of gaseous diffusion and gas centrifuge. Over the past 20 years, U.S. scientists themselves developed the more efficient called laser isotope separation, which is based on the fact that different isotopes of the same element, while chemically identical, absorb different colors of laser light.
Another portion of the document details device development. "Device is the bomb," Al-Saadi said, adding that other details include information on an Iraqi program that deals with bomb triggers.
The second main part of the declaration consists of 300 pages and details weapons activity from 1991 to the present. Divided into two chapters, the first deals with the eight "main sites" throughout Iraq, such as Iraqi Atomic Energy, where major development programs have taken place. Such sites also include facilities focusing on research and development, chemistry and pharmaceutical centers that use isotopes, and physics, agricultural and environmental programs.
The past and present names of these "main sites" were also detailed, as well as their affiliations, descriptions of activities, customers of the activity and imported material and equipment.
The second chapter deals with 20 supporting sites which, prior to and after 1991 supported any chemical, biological or other types of activities at the main sites.
In answering a reporter's question regarding whether or not Iraq is still producing VX nerve gas, Al-Saadi adamantly said Iraq doesn't produce it and that is detailed in the declaration.
"I have said that nothing of that previous program exists," he said.
VX gas was invented in the 1950s by the British military. It penetrates the skin and disrupts the transmission of nerve impulses. At high concentrations, symptoms progress from coughing to increased perspiration, vomiting and finally death by suffocation.
The toxic agent attacks both the muscles around the lungs and the respiratory part of the central nervous system. In liquid form, a drop the size of a pinhead is lethal.