Weapons inspections were 'manipulated'


By Carola Hoyos in New York, Nick George in Stockholm

and Roula Khalaf 

in

Baghdad

Published: July 29 2002 18:11 | Last Updated: July 29

2002 18:11



http://news.ft.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=FT.com/StoryFT/FullStory&c=StoryFT&cid=1027953256453&p=1012571727102





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

ends.



The revelation by one of the most respected Swedish

diplomats is 

certain

to strengthen Iraq's argument against allowing UN

inspectors back into 

the

country.



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

Iraq's capacity."



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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