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US exploited UN arms teams --ex-UN chief inspector (Read 434 times)
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US exploited UN arms teams --ex-UN chief inspector
Jul 31st, 2002 at 5:37pm
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STOCKHOLM, July 29 (Reuters) - The former chief U.N. arms inspector has accused the United States and other powers of exploiting United Nations inspection teams in Iraq for their own political ends, including tracking President Saddam Hussein's movements.

Rolf Ekeus, the Swedish diplomat who led the first inspections for Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs from 1991-1997, said that, at times, crises were created that could possibly form the basis for military action.

The comments by Ekeus, who has in the past harshly criticised Iraqi actions towards the inspectors, are bound to enforce Iraq's view that some U.N. inspectors were sent by Washington to spy on Baghdad.

His remarks were posted on a Swedish Radio website after an interview with him was broadcast on Sunday.

Iraq has not allowed the arms experts to return since they left on the eve of a U.S.-British bombing raid in December 1998 aimed at punishing Baghdad for not cooperating with inspections.

Ekeus was unclear about which incidents had taken place when he ran the inspection teams and which occurred under his successor, Richard Butler, who resigned after two years. The current head of the inspectors is Hans Blix, also a Swede.

"There is no doubt that the Americans wanted to influence the inspections to further certain fundamental U.S. interests," Ekeus said. "I don't think this was the case during the first few years as there was, at that time, a genuine concern about the weapons of mass destruction that Iraq could have."

He said such efforts had been made while he was head of UNSCOM but he did not think they had been successful. "But there were always different interests, from all powers, from the United States and also from the Russians," he said.

Nevertheless he said the pressure had "increased with time" and included attempts to "create crises in relations with Iraq, which to some extent was linked to the overall political situation -- internationally but also perhaps nationally".

He said the United States had wanted information about how Iraq's security services were organised and what its conventional military capacity was.

And he said he was "conscious" of the United States seeking information on where President Saddam Hussein was hiding, "which could be of interest if one were to target him personally".

"There was an ambition to cause a crisis through pressure for, shall we say, blunt provocation, for example by inspection of the Department of Defence, which at least from an Iraqi point of view must have been provocative," Ekeus said.

Although this inspection took place after he left office, Ekeus said he did not believe this building had housed materials connected to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs.

At the same time he said there had been situations when the inspection teams might have conducted tough searches. "And then they were put under pressure from the United States to halt them as, all of sudden, a confrontation was no longer wanted, owing to wider political interests in the game."

(UN bureau, +1 212 355 7424, fax +1 212 355 0143))

Reuters Limited.

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