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Final Blix Iraq WMD Report - None Found

Tuesday, 03 June 2003 12:00 AM

"UNMOVIC did not find evidence of continuation or resumption of programs of weapons of mass destruction or significant quantities of proscribed weapons."

An advance copy of the report was obtained by Newsmax. It is to be formally presented to the Security Council on Thursday.

The report, a quarterly update on the hunt for prohibited Iraq weapons, will be the last for Blix, who retires from the UN post on July 1, after more than three years.

No successor has been named, and it is unclear how the Security Council may restructure the arms inspectors in light of the collapse of the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein.

What is clear is that the Blix report will fuel the controversy on whether Iraq's weapons programs were as serious a threat as the Bush administration had claimed they were.

UNMOVIC sources tell Newsmax there has been no contact or requests for intelligence from the US or UK since Coalition forces attacked Iraq on March 19.

While Blix had a standing policy of not releasing intelligence to any individual country, he was ready to assist the Coalition in their search for Iraqi WMD, say UNMOVIC sources.

"Surprisingly, there has been no contact from the US or UK. We would try to assist them, but nobody has asked," explained one UNMOVIC source.

The source found the US action curious, since Washington has fielded numerous Iraqi arms inspection teams for more than two months and has come up empty.

Last week, the Pentagon decided to restructure and intensify the hunt for prohibited weapons by naming a Defense Intelligence Agency official, Army Major General Keith Dayton to lead an effort of more than 1400 inspectors into Iraq.

On May 30, Dayton, the director of operations at the Defense Intelligence Agency, was named as chief of the "Iraq Survey Group."

The group will comprise experts and military personnel from the US, UK and Australia.

It is the largest inspection effort ever fielded. More than 3 times the size of the UN's presence at any time since the end of Operation Desert Storm in 1991.

The group should begin operations in early June, says the Pentagon.

In his report to the Security Council, Blix states that UNMOVIC was making considerable progress in destroying banned Iraqi missiles (those with a range greater than 150 km).

By the time Operation Iraqi Freedom began, Iraq had destroyed about 2/3 of its Al Samoud II missiles (about 50 of 75 said to be operational) says the report.

It turned out to be not enough.

One of the 25 remaining missiles is believed by the Pentagon to have been used by Saddam Hussein to strike at a major US military operations headquarters.

According to CNN, in the opening hours of the US/UK invasion, Iraq launched a missile aimed at the US main forward command center located inside Camp Doha in Kuwait.

The cable network reported that Saddam Hussein tried to launch "his own decapitation strike" by trying to take out Camp Doha.

Luckily for the Pentagon, the Iraq missile was successfully intercepted by a Patriot antimissile battery stationed nearby.

CNN claimed that the interception took place with "just seconds" before it would have slammed into the US command center. Had the center been destroyed, it could have severely hampered the Coalition invasion, says the network.

The report raised questions about the accuracy of US intelligence and whether the center at Camp Doha may have been penetrated by circles sympathetic to Saddam Hussein.

In the area of Iraq's chemical and biological weapons, Blix also presented a mixed bag for the White House.

The chief inspector admits that vans with biological equipment recently uncovered by the Coalition in Iraq had not been previously declared by Baghdad, nor did they match the description of any mobile facilities that were declared.

Of those sites and facilities that were investigated, UNMOVIC reports:

"Inspection results and analysis of detailed forensic sampling of the facilities did not reveal evidence of any past involvement in proscribed chemical-biological weapons mobile production activities."

Unofficially, UNMOVIC inspectors have also cast doubt on the use of the vans cited by the Coalition as possible mobile BW production labs.

However, the report does refer to analysis still being conducted on two R-400 (missile warhead) bombs excavated by Iraq in February 2003.

While attempts by Iraq to "clean" these bombs seems to have taken place, UNMOVIC reports that both bombs contained "DNA of virulent B. anthracis (anthrax)." The report adds that analysis is under way to determine whether the strain of anthrax indicated by the examination matches that declared by Iraq.

The most troubling and potentially difficult problem for the White House, is that the WMD now being searched for could be easily buried and hard to detect.

Even more difficult, is the shelf life on the weapons.

A senior former UN inspector claimed that anthrax spores could last for "15 years or more" if properly stored.

In the UNMOVIC report, it expressed surprise that 155mm artillery shells originally filled with the deadly agent Mustard more than 15 years ago had retained a 97% purity rate even today.

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"UNMOVIC did not find evidence of continuation or resumption of programs of weapons of mass destruction or significant quantities of proscribed weapons." An advance copy of the report was obtained by Newsmax. It is to be formally presented to the Security Council on...
Tuesday, 03 June 2003 12:00 AM
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