Hans Blix: 'Iraq .....

Hans Blix: 'Iraq weapons inspectors were not given enough time'

It was "very hard" for Iraq to declare weapons programmes that did not exist, former United Nations chief weapons inspector Hans Blix said today.
Dr Blix said UN Security Council resolution 1441, passed four months before the March 2003 invasion, gave Saddam Hussein the "chance for a new start".
He told the Iraq Inquiry he privately believed Saddam had kept weapons of mass destruction, but criticised the short time his Unmovic inspection team was given to search for them.
Dr Blix said he was in favour of resolution 1441, passed on November 8 2002, which declared Iraq in "material breach" of its obligations to disarm and paved the way for the return of weapons inspectors.
"The declaration, I felt, might give Iraq a chance for a new start," he said.
"If they had weapons, which I thought might well be the case, they had an opportunity. Now here it is, they could put the blame on some general or other."
Inquiry panel member Sir Roderic Lyne asked him: "Did you feel that it gave Iraq a realistic possibility of meeting the requirements of the resolution?"
Dr Blix replied: "Yes, except that it was very hard for them to declare any weapons when they didn't have any."
The former weapons inspector said he believed another resolution explicitly authorising military action was needed before attacks could be launched on Iraq.
"To me it was clear that a second resolution was required," he said.
Resolution 1441 said the weapons inspectors should give an update to the UN Security Council within 60 days.
Dr Blix questioned how this worked in practice, particularly in the light of the coalition's initial plans to invade Iraq from the north through Turkey.
He said: "I am a little puzzled, I must say, at how they calculated because the impression was that the invasion would take place through Turkey and that it would occur even in the beginning of January.
"That would have given (a) very very short time to the inspection.
"As it turned out we only had three-and-a-half months, but had they gone into Turkey it would have been even shorter."
He said he told then-prime minister Tony Blair in autumn 2002 of his belief that Saddam had maintained his WMD programmes.
"I, like most people at the time, felt that Iraq retains weapons of mass destruction," he said.
"I did not say so publicly. I said it perhaps to Mr Blair in September 2002 privately, but not publicly."
Dr Blix also spoke of his disquiet at the US national security strategy published in September 2002, which set out the Bush administration's belief in its right to launch pre-emptive attacks.
He said: "The US in 2002, that time you refer to, threw it overboard. I think they were high on military at the time. They said, 'we can do it'."
The former weapons inspector compared attempts to deal with Iraq's supposed WMD in 2002-03 with current efforts to stop Tehran's ambitions to become a nuclear power.
"We have economic pressure against Iran. I do not think that is illegal. I think the use of force against Iran today would be illegal," he said.


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