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Analysis: Release of Iraqi Report on Their Suspected Weapons of Mass Destruction

Weekend Edition Saturday: December 7, 2002

Iraqi Weapons Report

SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

Later today Iraq will hand over to United Nations weapons inspectors a declaration of that nation's weapons programs, past and present. Now Iraq, of course, must meet a December 8th deadline to turn over what's characterized as a full and frank declaration. And reportedly, the document that some reporters have seen today exceeds more than 11,000 pages. Journalists have been afforded the opportunity to see that document, but not read the declaration. That small group includes our Anne Garrels, who's on the line from Baghdad.

Annie, thanks for being with us.

ANNE GARRELS reporting:

Good morning, or good evening, my time.

SIMON: Or good evening your time. And what's this vast document look like?

GARRELS: Well, there's volume upon volume of information; each volume labeled `chemical,' `nuclear' or `biological.' As you mentioned, you couldn't see what the contents were, merely the labels, and more than 12,000 pages. There was a sign there saying 11,807 pages plus 352 pages of supplements, and there were CD-ROMs. So it's a lot of material.

SIMON: Now I understand that Hussam Mohammed Amim, who's the head of the Iraqi National Monitoring Directorate, spoke with you.

GARRELS: He addressed the reporters there, and he declared, as we expected him to, that Iraq is empty of weapons of mass destruction. He reiterated, `Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction.' And he went on to say, `If the US has minimum levels of fairness and bravery, it should accept the report.' Now, of course, the Bush administration has already made it clear it believes that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. It has already said in advance of this report it would be unsatisfactory if they did not admit this, although the US has not presented conclusive evidence to support its charges.

SIMON: I suppose it would be possible for Mr. Amim to make that characterization of what's in the report, but yet still there be some information that could lead people to stores of weapons or former stores of weapons, wouldn't it?

GARRELS: Well, that's right. It's expected that the report's going to cover the 1991 to 1998 history of the UN inspections, that first round of inspections, when UN inspectors basically pushed the Iraqis to admit that they had weapons. They've still got some questions from those past inspections. They've found, you know--their numbers don't quite tally up. Inspectors also hope that in the list of dual-use items that Iraq is presenting--it has to give information about all its chemical, biological and nuclear programs, military or not. You know, for instance, things like chlorine, which can be used for...

SIMON: Yeah.

GARRELS: ...gas, or it can be used for sewage plants.

Inspectors in the past have found clues in the Iraqi declarations, and they're hoping they might find some more clues where they might look in the future. They're also, of course, waiting for the United States to present its information. So far, the inspectors have been going to old sites, sites they knew about, that had been to in the past. They're saying, `Look, if the US has intelligence about current weapons programs, tell us so we can go find those sites.' It wasn't in the US interest to show its hand before today. It's basically set a trap for the Iraqis; you know, `Show us your weapons. We're not going to tell you what we know.' But now the inspectors are saying, you know, `We need more information to proceed.'

SIMON: And how soon can the documents be expected to reach New York and the Security Council?

GARRELS: Well, it's kind of anticlimactic. It's going to take a long time. First of all, part of the documents dealing with nuclear materials go to Vienna, to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN's nuclear watchdog. The rest, concerning biological and chemical weapons, goes straight to New York. But first, only the inspectors are going to see documents. They've got to weed out information that could possibly help countries make their own weapons. As one UN official said, `We don't want to be handing out a cookbook, a weapon cookbook.' So the documents also have to be translated, they've got to be copied, and only then will they be distributed to members of the Security Council, including the US. And then they're going to have to pore through a lot of detail.

SIMON: Now, Annie, we're turning to former UN weapons inspector Terrence Taylor after speaking with you, but just in the 30 seconds or so we have left, Saddam Hussein is going to address the people of Kuwait tonight, not Iraq but the people of Kuwait, although I suppose the Iraqis will be tuned in, too. Do you have any idea what he's expected to say?

GARRELS: No. This was quite a surprise. It was just announced. I can only surmise that Saddam Hussein has taken a more conciliatory stance of late. This week he said that he was willing to cooperate with the inspectors. Of course, he doesn't admit he has weapons of mass destruction. So it's quite possible that he's going to be reaching out to the Kuwaitis, who he invaded in 1990-'91.

SIMON: Annie Garrels, speaking with us from Baghdad. Anne, thanks very much.

GARRELS: You're welcome.

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