News

USIS Washington 
File

16 March 1998

TEXT: UNSCOM CHAIRMAN RICHARD BUTLER'S PRESS BRIEFING AT THE UN

(Cites unprecedented access to sensitive sites in Iraq)  (1380)



United Nations -- Scott Ritter, the chief inspector of the United
Nations Special Commission in Iraq (UNSCOM), briefed UN Secretary
General Kofi Annan March 13 on the work of UNSCOM Team 227, which
ended its work on Monday, March 9.


The briefing included a discussion of what happened during benchmark
inspections of sensitive sites in Iraq.


UNSCOM Chairman Richard Butler, who will be travelling to Baghdad
later this week to begin two days of talks with Iraq's Deputy Prime
Minister Tariq Aziz in Baghdad Sunday, March 22 said it was a
benchmark inspection because the team had been granted unprecedented
access, both in terms of the number of inspectors that had been
allowed entry and the manner in which access was granted to the sites
of inspection.


When asked what percentage of UNSCOM's work was completed, Butler said
"UNSCOM had come a long way in missiles, a fairly long way in
chemistry, but it had a long way to go in biology". Furthermore, a
percentage of a given quantum could only be calculated if that finite
quantum was known. Iraq must first give UNSCOM all the necessary
materials, including declarations, and allow it to visit all the sites
that were required for verification.


Butler said he and Aziz would also discuss future UNSCOM-Iraq
cooperation in light of the Memorandum of Understanding, signed
February 23 between the UN Secretary-General and the Iraq's Deputy
Prime Minister, and the arrangements for the inspection of the eight
presidential sites, which would begin a few days after Butler departed
from Baghdad.


Ritter reported that UNSCOM had established new procedures and new
benchmarks in Iraq for access to sensitive sites.


Following is the UN text:



(begin text)



13 March 1998



PRESS BRIEFING BY UNSCOM EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN



Richard Butler, Executive Chairman of the United Nations Special
Commission which was established by Security Council resolution 687
(1991) in connection with the elimination of Iraq's weapons of mass
destruction (UNSCOM), addressed correspondents and responded to
questions during today's press briefing at Headquarters.


Mr. Butler confirmed he would be travelling to Baghdad with a mixed
team of scientific and policy experts. He would leave late next week
and begin two days of talks with Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Tariq
Aziz in Baghdad on Sunday, 22 March. Mr. Butler said he would also
spend two days with the staff of UNSCOM's Baghdad Monitoring and
Verification Centre in order to hear first- hand accounts of their
work during the past two months.


Regarding the talks with Mr. Aziz, Mr. Butler said they would include
a review of the progress made in the technical evaluation meetings, in
particular, the discussions of missile warheads and the chemical
weapon VX. While the biological technical evaluation meeting would not
be finished at that time, that issue would also be discussed to some
extent.


Mr. Butler said he and Mr. Aziz would also discuss future UNSCOM-Iraq
cooperation in light of the Memorandum of Understanding, signed
recently between the Secretary-General and the Deputy Prime Minister,
and the arrangements for the inspection of the eight presidential
sites, which would begin a few days after Mr. Butler departed from
Baghdad. Under-Secretary- General for Disarmament Affairs Jayantha
Dhanapala -- appointed by the Secretary-General as the Commissioner
who will head the special group established to inspect the eight
presidential sites -- would also be present during some of the
discussions with Mr. Aziz.


The UNSCOM Inspector Scott Ritter had met with the Secretary-General
at Headquarters this morning, at the latter's request, Mr. Butler
announced. Mr. Ritter briefed the Secretary-General on the work of
UNSCOM Team 227, which ended its work on Monday, 9 March, including
what happened during benchmark inspections of sensitive sites.


It was a benchmark inspection because the team had been granted
unprecedented access, both in terms of the number of inspectors that
had been allowed entry and the manner in which access was granted to
the sites of inspection, Mr. Butler continued. Mr. Ritter had reported
to the Secretary-General that UNSCOM had established new procedures
and new benchmarks in Iraq for access to sensitive sites. Having
established the practicality and usefulness of those procedures,
UNSCOM hoped that they would be available to teams in the future. The
Secretary-General had thanked Mr. Ritter for his report and encouraged
him to continue his good work.


A correspondent said the Secretary-General had stated that the
Memorandum of Understanding would be implemented because Saddam
Hussein had been involved in the negotiations. What was his
assessment? the correspondent asked. Mr. Butler said the situation had
improved, and there was no reason not to believe it would continue to
do so in the future. The agreement had worked well so far and had
helped both sides.


Would it become routine for UNSCOM inspection team leaders to report
to the Secretary-General after the completion of their visits to
sensitive sites? a correspondent asked. Mr. Butler said that such a
procedure would not be necessary as a matter of routine. Yet, when the
Secretary-General asked to see a person, the team leader would be made
available to brief him as required.


Asked when the inspections of presidential sites would commence, Mr.
Butler said they would begin immediately after he left Baghdad, and
Mr. Dhanapala would probably remain in Iraq until those inspections
were completed. The UNSCOM was currently designing the plans for those
inspections, in accordance with the special procedures. Those
procedures stated that visits to the sites would be conducted by
professional teams of UNSCOM and the International Atomic Energy
Agency (IAEA). The IAEA would make approximately 10 atomic inspectors
available to the team. The Special Commission would contribute
missile, biological and chemical inspectors, as well as the necessary
technical support personnel.


The teams would be constituted according to the size of the sites,
which varied greatly, Mr. Butler continued. One site in Baghdad had
only one building, while another presidential site included several
hundred buildings. After the technical teams were constituted, Mr.
Dhanapala would be asked to select the names of the diplomats that
were needed to complete the team. After the plans and instructions
were made available to all team members, the team would perform
baseline inspections of all eight sites, in an order yet to be
determined. The length of the inspection process could not be
estimated, because the sites were located in various parts of the
country and varied in size.


Asked if the eight presidential sites would be placed under long-term
monitoring, Mr. Butler said the teams would perform a baseline
inspection and then determine what was required for the future. He
could not answer the question until that first step was completed.
Yet, a footnote to the special procedures stated that UNSCOM could
employ all available methodologies in carrying out its mandate under
the various Security Council resolutions.


Will members of the press be invited to accompany the teams on the
inspections of the presidential sites? a correspondent asked. Mr.
Butler said he was not certain and would look into the issue.


Asked what percentage of UNSCOM's work was completed, Mr. Butler said,
"UNSCOM had come a long way in missiles, a fairly long way in
chemistry, but it had a long way to go in biology". Furthermore, a
percentage of a given quantum could only be calculated if that finite
quantum was known. Iraq must first give UNSCOM all the necessary
materials, including declarations, and allow it to visit all the sites
that were required for verification.


A correspondent said that the Iraqi Government considered the
Executive Chairman an obstacle to the inspection process. Was he going
to try to change that perception? the correspondent asked. Mr. Butler
said Iraq had never made such a statement. "There have been various
criticisms in various Iraqi media, and there have been differences of
opinion between myself and Mr. Aziz, but there have also been strong
points of agreement", he said. The Secretary- General's Memorandum of
Understanding had created a new situation. It gave UNSCOM an
unprecedented opportunity to complete its mandate, and he would do
whatever he could to ensure that outcome.


(end text)