UNITED NATIONS – Iraq's massive dossier detailing its chemical, biological and nuclear programs became the center of scrutiny Sunday by U.N. weapons inspectors in New York and Vienna -- who began combing through it to determine whether Baghdad is complying with Security Council resolutions.
Copies of the 12,000-page declaration, which left Baghdad on Saturday, arrived in two small suitcases and were met at U.N. headquarters in New York at 8:40 p.m. EST by chief weapons inspector Hans Blix, who said his staff "will immediately take a look," at the material.
Blix said he wanted "an overview of how many pages are printed, how much did we get in CD-ROMs." He then notified the Security Council that the document arrived and he planned to discuss its handling during a Tuesday luncheon with council members.
Under Security Council Resolution 1441 passed Nov. 8, Iraq had until Sunday to provide a full and complete accounting of its weapons programs. The council has insisted on such an accounting for years, and in the past Iraq provided partial reports which were updated only after inspectors discovered programs which were not included.
Under successive resolutions, passed since the Persian Gulf War was launched in 1991 to oust Saddam Hussein's troops from neighboring Kuwait, the Security Council has demanded that Iraq disarm and comply with a weapons inspections regime. Only after inspectors declare Iraq in compliance can 12 years of crippling sanctions, imposed after the Iraqi invasion, be suspended.
In its latest declaration, Iraq maintains it is free of weapons of mass destruction, a claim dismissed by the White House, which has warned that continued Iraqi attempts to hide such arms could lead to military retaliation.
Last week, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said there was a "solid basis" for assertions that Saddam possessed banned weapons and that the United States would provide that intelligence to U.N. inspectors. However, that evidence has not been forthcoming and Blix has continued to ask Washington to share its data.
Asked whether he was concerned about criticism from Washington about Iraq's compliance, Blix said, "I'm not concerned about that. They will have their reaction, and we will have our study."
The nuclear component of the new declaration arrived earlier Sunday in Vienna, Austria, where the International Atomic Energy Agency is based. The chemical, biological and missile components of the dossier will be analyzed and translated by Blix's U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, known as UNMOVIC.
Mohamed ElBaradei, the IAEA's director-general, said analysts in Vienna began work immediately on the declaration, "including the painstaking and systematic cross-checking" of the information it contains. Iraq's account will be compared with intelligence provided by other nations and with data from past and present inspections, he said.
The IAEA hopes to provide the Security Council with a preliminary analysis within 10 days and a more detailed analysis when it reports back to the council at the end of January, ElBaradei said.
Blix said it would take some time for his team to sift through its sections of the documents, translate the Arabic portions and even remove so-called sensitive material that could get into the wrong hands.
It was unclear whether inspectors also would remove the names of companies which provided Iraq with weapons assistance more than a decade ago.
Iraq insists it has no programs for developing nuclear, biological or chemical weapons. It turned over the declaration to U.N. officials in Baghdad on Saturday -- a day before the deadline set out in Resolution 1441. Iraq also met the resolution's first deadline when it accepted its terms Nov. 14.
But Iraq's compliance with the declaration could determine whether it faces war with the United States and its allies. According to the resolution, any "omissions or false statements" in the declaration could be tantamount to "material breach," which Washington could use to argue the need for military action to enforce the resolution.
The complete declaration, in Arabic and English with an 80-page summary, was contained in at least a dozen bound volumes accompanied by computer disks. It covers such subjects as the 1990s U.N. weapons inspection regime in Iraq, when many arms and much production equipment were destroyed. It also details "dual-use" industries that can serve both civilian and military purposes.
Inspectors said they expect much of the declaration to include repetitious material that was submitted years ago.
In Baghdad on Sunday, Saddam Hussein's science adviser, Lt. Gen. Amer al-Saadi, called the declaration "accurate, comprehensive and truthful" and challenged those who contend otherwise to come forward with proof.
Inspectors have said continued inspections are the only way to ascertain whether the claims in the Iraqi report are truthful.
The previous U.N. weapons inspection regime collapsed in December 1998 amid U.N.-Iraqi disputes over access to sites and Iraqi allegations that some inspectors were spies.
By the end of the 1991 Persian Gulf War, inspectors discovered the oil-rich nation had imported thousands of pounds of uranium, some of which already was refined for weapons use, and had considered two types of nuclear delivery systems.
Inspectors seized the uranium, destroyed facilities and chemicals, dismantled over 40 missiles and confiscated thousands of documents.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.