UNITED NATIONS – The 10 non-permanent Security Council members finally got their chance to pick up a sanitized version of Iraq's weapons declaration on Tuesday night, less than two days before U.N. inspectors give their preliminary assessment of the 12,000-page document.
The five permanent members who are all nuclear powers — the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France — received the uncensored declaration of Saddam Hussein's nuclear, chemical, biological, and long-range missile programs over a week ago.
On Tuesday evening, the non-permanent members, who are elected for two-year terms, got their censored copies — with all information that could be used to promote the spread of weapons of mass destruction removed.
Diplomats picked up the abridged, 3,500-page report on Iraq's chemical, biological and missile programs late Tuesday from the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission headed by chief U.N. inspector Hans Blix.
Some annexes and material in Arabic may be given to the non-permanent members later if the council agrees, spokesman Ewen Buchanan said.
The International Atomic Energy Agency handed over a 2,000-page report on Iraq's nuclear program to the non-permanent members Tuesday.
The agency's director, Mohamed ElBaradei, said last week that Saddam's 2,400-page nuclear dossier contained scant new information.
A council diplomat who saw the sanitized version said parts of the declaration were blacked out, including the names of foreign individuals and companies and some Iraqis. But some of the blacking out appeared to have been done in a rush, and in the 709-page missile declaration the names of some West German and Swiss companies could still be discerned.
"There seem to be a lot of gaps and omissions in this declaration but they seem to be produced by UNMOVIC, the IAEA and the five permanent members, not by Iraq," said one diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The diplomat said the edited declaration does not contain any statement by Iraq stating that it does not have weapons programs, or any summary. Two of the binders dealt with Iraq's chemical program, two with its missile program and one with the biological program, the diplomat said.
The five countries joining the council next month for two-year terms — Germany, Spain, Chile, Pakistan and Angola — will also receive edited copies of the declaration, said Colombia's U.N. Ambassador Alfonso Valdivieso, the current council president.
Blix and ElBaradei are scheduled to give the council their initial views on the declaration Thursday.
Valdivieso said he also expects the five permanent members to comment.
Assistant Secretary of State John Wolf, who oversees nonproliferation issues, will represent the United States when Blix reports to the Security Council Thursday, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said in Washington.
"I am sure we will have something to say later this week. Whether it will be a final judgment, I don't know," Boucher said.
In London, Prime Minister Tony Blair's office said Tuesday that Britain was unlikely to give a response until after Christmas.
Russia's U.N. Ambassador Sergey Lavrov reiterated Tuesday that Moscow would not comment before Blix and ElBaradei gave their assessments. French diplomats have also said they will wait to hear the inspectors.