Blix Says He'll Leave U.N. June 30, Disappointed He Didn't Get More Time to Disarm Iraq

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Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix said Friday he will leave his job at the end of June, with disappointment that his teams weren't given a few more months to try to disarm Iraq peacefully.

Blix extended his contract for four months at the end of February, when inspectors were seeking substantive answers from Iraq on disarmament issues and the United States was warning that Saddam Hussein's time to cooperate was running out.

Blix said he will submit a quarterly report on June 1 to the Security Council on the work of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission and leave at the end of the month, a few days after his 75th birthday.

"I look forward to going back to research, to writing about international law and to not least to be with my family, my wife," the former Swedish foreign minister said in an interview with Associated Press Television News. "Summer is nice at home, and I think after the hectic life here it would be a nice time to come home."

Would he stay on if asked?

"I would have wanted to leave last year. However, the way things looked then we were into dialogue and I didn't think I could do that," Blix said. "But as things look now, certainly I will be very happy to go home in June."

Blix took over the commission, known as UNMOVIC, in March 2000, three months after the Security Council established it to replace the first weapons inspection agency for Iraq, the U.N. Special Commission.

His inspectors returned to Iraq for the first time in four years in late November, soon after the council strengthened inspections and gave Baghdad a final chance to disarm peacefully or face serious consequences.

Blix said he is certain President Bush "hoped that this path to disarmament would be successful." But he said the U.S. administration "gave up on inspections" in late January or early February and began to prepare for military action.

Blix said he regrets he didn't press the Iraqis earlier to do more to show they were actively cooperating on substantive issues. He said they showed more cooperation in late January and early February.

The United States decided, however, to push for a resolution giving Saddam an ultimatum to disarm or face war. The U.S. and allies Britain and Spain withdrew the resolution on March 17, facing strong resistance from council members France, Russia, Germany and China. The war began two days later.

"I think we were given a bit too short time," Blix said. "A few more months would have been useful."