No Case for Iraq War, Says UN Chief


By David Usborne and Marie Woolf

January 1, 2003

Kofi Annan, the United Nations secretary general, said last night that he saw no justification for a military onslaught against Iraq - at least until the UN inspections chief, Hans Blix, submits a first full report to the Security Council at the end of January.

His remarks were a blunt warning to Britain and the United States that they will need clear evidence of clandestine weapons programmes in Iraq to win support from other nations for any military campaign against Saddam Hussein this winter.

Mr Annan also stated that weapons inspectors in Iraq were working without interference.

His comments stood in contrast to a bellicose end-of-year statement from Tony Blair that Britain should be ready for possible conflict in the Gulf. He said he was ready to take "tough decisions" on dealing with President Saddam "regardless of short-term popularity". Adding that it may become necessary to disarm Saddam "by force", Mr Blair added: "We must confront the issue of Iraq and weapons of mass destruction because to fail to do so would make the world a very dangerous place in the future, with countries free to flout the will of the United Nations." The US also continues to give the impression of preparing for near-certain war.

Mr Blix has until 27 January to give the UN Security Council a first comprehensive report on the progress of inspections in Iraq. In the next four weeks, inspections in Iraq are likely to intensify with additional manpower as well as eight newly delivered helicopters to give inspectors more mobility.

But alarm is growing in London and Washington as it becomes clear that the work already done by inspectors has failed to pick up any prohibited weapons activity, making the political task of justifying an armed invasion to the UN immeasurably harder. The changing membership of the Security Council is also a stumbling block for military action. Germany is among five countries taking non-permanent seats on the Security Council today for a two-year term and it has made clear its misgivings about war, vowing that its troops would not participate.

The absence of incriminating evidence of clandestine weapons programmes in Iraq was made clear yesterday by one of the inspectors. "We haven't found one iota of concealed material yet," he told the Los Angeles Times. He said there was "zilch" to report to the Security Council at the end of January, but conceded that the failure to find anything may signify the Iraqis' concealment skills.

"Even if they open all the doors in Iraq for us and keep them open 24 hours a day, we won't be able to find a black cat in a dark room, especially if it is not there," he said, drawing attention to the inspectors' frustration with the lack of intelligence being provided by Britain and the US. "We need information.

We need help. We need intelligence reports - if they exist."

London and Washington face an uphill task in convincing other UN members to support a war if Mr Blix returns to the Security Council on 27 January with nothing to show from the inspections and Iraq has given the impression of fully cooperating. Mr Annan stressed that nothing has emerged to justify launching a war before the 27 January report. Speaking to Israel's Army Radio, he said: "I really do not see any basis for an action until then, particularly as the inspectors are able to carry out their work in an unimpeded manner".

If Mr Blix fails to find hard evidence of prohibited weapons activity, he will almost certainly be pressed by the US to identify Iraqi scientists who know of concealed weapons. He may also be asked to take them out of Iraq for questioning, even though scientists who provide any information run the risk of severe punishment, or death, if they return to Iraq.

More Information on the Threat of War Against Iraq

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