Blix: 'Not Much' New in Iraq's Declaration

Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix said Thursday he will tell the Security Council that there is "not much" new information about Iraq's weapons programs in its 12,000-page declaration.

"There is a good bit of information about non-arms related activities," he said. "Not much information about the weapons."

Blix said gaps remain in the declaration.

"The absence of supporting evidence is what we are talking about mainly. That continues," he said.

At the closed council meeting Thursday, Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, will give their initial views on the declaration.

Blix said on his arrival at U.N. headquarters that he will tell the council that U.N. inspectors who returned to Baghdad last month after nearly four years have been given "prompt access to sites all over and there has been a good deal of help on the logistical side."

ElBaradei's message was likely to be that "there's nothing new" on Iraqi weapons programs in the nuclear declaration and further inspections are needed, an IAEA official said in Vienna, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Iraq denies having weapons of mass destruction, but the United States and Britain contend Iraq does have banned arms and have called the Iraqi declaration incomplete.

Also Thursday morning, Syria, a non-permanent member of the Security Council, announced it would boycott the talks to protest against having received an edited version of Iraq's weapons declaration.

Only the five permanent members of the Security Council -- the U.S., Britain, China, France and Russia, all nuclear powers -- got the full 12,000 pages of the declaration after the U.S. raised concerns about atomic and other secrets being revealed.

The 10 non-permanent members got abridged versions totaling about 3,500 pages, with all sensitive information omitted.

Syria, though a longtime foe of Israel and a proven supporter of terrorism, is a tacit ally of the United States against both Iraq and the Al Qaeda terror network.

The White House said Saddam Hussein missed his "last chance" to come clean with the world and President Bush was debating whether to formally declare Iraq in violation of a U.N. resolution that threatens war unless Saddam disarms.

Assistant Secretary of State John Wolf and U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte met Blix on Tuesday to discuss gaps in the declaration, and Negroponte had another meeting with the chief inspector on Wednesday, U.N. diplomats said.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw on Wednesday called Baghdad's dossier an "obvious falsehood." But he said Thursday that gaps in Iraq's weapons declaration are not in themselves grounds for war.

ElBaradei was likely to resist U.S. pressure to declare that Iraq has violated Resolution 1441, which required it to make a full and complete disclosure of its weapons programs, the official said. U.N. diplomats said Blix was expected to take a similar position.

Several U.N. diplomats said Blix was expected to report that he didn't find all the answers he was seeking about Iraq's chemical, biological and long-range missile programs in the declaration.

The IAEA official said Thursday: "There is new information, but it is related to Iraq's peaceful research into and use of nuclear radioisotopes for medicine, agriculture and industry, something they are permitted to engage in."

He said the IAEA had not concluded that Baghdad was withholding key information on its weapons programs.

In preparing its declaration, Iraq had a list of outstanding questions prepared by the former U.N. inspection agency and by an international panel of experts. Inspectors left Baghdad in December 1998 and Iraq barred them from returning until last month.

The unanswered questions included: How much anthrax did Iraq actually produce, and was it all destroyed as Baghdad claims? Where are 550 artillery shells that it filled with mustard gas? Why were no remnants found of warheads for 50 long-range missiles that Iraq said it destroyed? What happened to all the deadly VX nerve agent that Iraq produced.

The report by former chief inspector Richard Butler listed biological agents Iraq produced including deadly botullinum toxin, anthrax and ricin; gangrene gas, which rots flesh; and aflatoxin, which causes liver cancer. Baghdad also said it did research on rotavirus, which causes diarrhea; and hemorrhagic conjunctivitis virus, which affects the eyes.

Butler's report cited Iraq's failures to account for all stocks of biological agents and the material used to grow the agents. Inspectors said, for example, that they believe Iraq produced three times the amount of anthrax and 16 times more gangrene gas than Baghdad declared.

Straw's statement Wednesday said Iraq's declaration failed to account for "large quantities of nerve agent, chemical precursors and munitions."

U.N. diplomats said the declaration does not give an accounting for mustard gas, artillery shells, and material used to grow biological agents.