Weapons inspections were 'manipulated'
By Carola Hoyos in New York, Nick George in Stockholm and Roula Khalaf in
Published: July 29 2002 18:11 | Last Updated: July 29 2002 18:11
Rolf Ekeus, head of United Nations weapons inspections in Iraq from
1991-97, has accused the US and other Security Council members of
manipulating the United Nations inspections teams for their own political
The revelation by one of the most respected Swedish diplomats is certain
to strengthen Iraq's argument against allowing UN inspectors back into the
Kofi Annan, UN secretary-general, and Hans Blix, the UN's new chief
weapons inspector, have for the past several months tried to negotiate a
return of the inspectors with Naji Sabri, Iraq's foreign minister. Nearly
every member of the UN is counting on a diplomatic breakthrough to avoid a
US military attack against Iraq.
Speaking to Swedish radio, Mr Ekeus said there was no doubt that
countries, especially the US, attempted to increase their influence over
the inspections to favour their own interests. "As time went on, some
countries, especially the US, wanted to learn more about other parts of
Mr Ekeus said the US tried to find information about the whereabouts of
Saddam Hussein, Iraq's president. He said he was able to rebuff such moves
but that the pressure mounted after he left in 1997.
Most damning, he said that the US and other members of the Security
Council pressed the teams to inspect sensitive areas, such as Iraq's
ministry of defence when it was politically favourable for them to create
a crisis situation. "They, [Security Council members] pressed the
inspection leadership to carry out inspections which were controversial
from the Iraqis' view, and thereby created a blockage that could be used
as a justification for a direct military action," he said.
In a separate interview with Svenska Dagbladet, the Swedish newspaper, Mr
Ekeus said that he had learnt after he left his position that the US had
placed two of its own agents in the group of inspectors.
With the US determined to topple the Iraqi regime, officials in Baghdad
argue that the return of inspectors at this time is certain to lead to
intelligence gathering and to deliberate provocation on their part, thus
giving legitimacy to a US attack.
Mr Sabri, Iraqi foreign minister, insists that Mr Blix has come under US
pressure not to agree to any compromise with Baghdad.
Iraqi officials have been greatly frustrated - most recently at the talks
with the UN in Vienna last month - by the Security Council's decision not
to allow Mr Blix to discuss with Baghdad the key remaining disarmament
tasks before inspectors return to the country.
Inspections based on a US agenda, says Mr Sabri, are simply impractical.
"They proved a complete failure. The inspectors were procrastinating,
prolonging the sanctions and providing a pretext for action against Iraq."
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