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Blix: UNMOVIC Ready to Be Independent Verifier for Findings in Iraq
Chief UN arms inspector Hans Blix said Thursday that the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) remains ready to resume work as an independent verifier for any findings in Iraq or to conduct long-term monitoring.

Presenting final report at an open council session, the UNMOVIC chairman said UN inspectors would go back to Iraq for the above-mentioned purposes, "should the council so decide."

He said the core expertise and experience available within UNMOVIC remain a valuable asset and this "might be of particular value in the field of biological weapons and missiles for which there exists no international verification organization."

UN arms inspectors withdrew from Iraq on the eve of the US-led invasion on March 19, and their return has been put on hold indefinitely due to strong objection from the United States.

But UN resolution 1483 passed last month opened the possibility of their return. It says the council would revisit the mandate of UNMOVIC and Iraq's complete disarmament needs independent verification.

In his report, Blix reiterated that UNMOVIC had not "at any time during the inspections in Iraq found evidence of the continuation or resumption of proscribed items -- whether from pre1991 or later."

But he stressed there remain long lists of proscribed items unaccounted for despite inspections or Iraqi explanations.

He said it was "not justified to jump to the conclusion that something exists just because it is unaccounted for."

The lack of finds by inspectors could be because the items were "unilaterally destroyed" by the Iraqi authorities or else because "they were effectively concealed by them," he said.

But Blix expressed his belief that it should be possible to establish the truth about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in post-war Iraq, "in which there is full access and cooperation, and in which knowledgeable witness should no longer be inhibited to reveal what they know."

Blix indicated earlier he would retire after his current contract with the UN expires at the end of June.

After the open meeting, US Ambassador to the UN John Negroponte, while taking reporters' questions, insisted that he believe there was WMD in Iraq. And he declined to foresee whether the UN inspectors could return to Iraq.

The United States and Britain launched a military operation against Iraq in March on the grounds that Iraq possessed and concealed WMD. Currently, a so-called US-British survey group is in search of WMD in Iraq.

Council President Sergey Lavrov of Russia said the council members expressed thanks to Blix for his work and leadership. He said UNMOVIC would remain a UN subsidiary until its mandate was reviewed.

(Xinhua News Agency June 6, 2003)

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