News

USIS Washington 
File

29 April 1998

UN SUMMARY OF PRESS BRIEFING BY UNSCOM EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN BUTLER

(Says weapons probe will end if Iraq verifies destruction) (1190)



United Nations -- The United Nations official charged by the UN
Security Council (UNSC) with assuring that Iraq has destroyed its
weapons of mass destruction and the means of delivering them says he
could close out his investigation quickly if the Iraqi government
provided him with a true and verifiable accounting of its claims that
it complied with this demand.


Richard Butler, Executive Chairman of the United Nations Special
Commission (UNSCOM) set up by the Security Council to implement this
demand, told reporters at an April 28 briefing that he and his
colleagues have never been able to verify scientifically or
technically Iraq's claims that it has complied with UN weapons
destruction orders.


Disarmament by declaration, said Butler, was against Council
declarations. "We need positive verification that what they created --
and they acknowledge they had in the past -- have all been used,
destroyed and somehow accounted for, so that I can tell the Security
Council that it is over," he said.


"If they really want this to be over, they should give it to us," said
Butler. "That's all we ask. Our promise is when they do that, they
will find us competent, honest and quick."


He said he told the UNSC that when the weapons accounting was
complete, his Commission would be the first to call for a lifting of
the oil embargo against Iraq.


Butler bristled when a reporter asked him if he believed Iraqi
allegations that some UNSCOM members were agents of the Central
Intelligence Agency (CIA).
"That is so shockingly wrong.  It's just not true," he said.



Following is the UN summary of the briefing:



(begin summary)



28 April 1998



The Executive Chairman of the United Nations Special Commission
(UNSCOM), Richard Butler, said at a Headquarters press briefing this
afternoon that the Commission would close its investigation of Iraq's
weapons of mass destruction programmes once the Iraqi Government gave
a true and verifiable accounting of its claims.


He said the Commission might be able to get the disarmament part of
its work done in a relatively short time if Iraq cooperated by
producing materials, evidence and documents required for UNSCOM's
tasks.


Mr. Butler was briefing correspondents on his meeting yesterday with
members of the Security Council on the Commission's fifth six-monthly
report on its activities in Iraq (document S/1998/332 of 16 April).
The Commission was established by Security Council resolution 687
(1991) to inspect Iraq's biological, chemical and missile capabilities
and to destroy, remove or render harmless Iraq's proscribed weapons
and all related components, items and facilities.


Mr. Butler said he had informed the Council that the report covered
all the events that had taken place in relations between UNSCOM and
Iraq -- before and after the Memorandum of Understanding signed
between the United Nations and Iraq on 23 February. The former period
was marked by possibly the most intense crisis in their relationship,
while the latter saw an entirely new spirit of cooperation.


The report did make clear that because of the period of crisis --
October 1997 to February 1998 -- the Commission was not able to report
any progress in its work on disarmament, he said. He had, however,
informed the Council of the progress in recent weeks in the attempt to
get an accounting of the special missile warheads that Iraq once
possessed and which Iraq said had been unilaterally destroyed. In the
Memorandum of Understanding, Iraq had given a basic promise to obey
the Council's resolutions and to cooperate with UNSCOM. On its part,
he said the Commission had promised that it would carry out its tasks
honestly and with a very high level of competence and as quickly as
possible.


Mr. Butler said he had called the Council's attention to those two
promises and had requested it to urge Iraq's cooperation with UNSCOM.
When the accounting was complete, the Commission would be the first to
call for the lifting of the oil embargo against Iraq. His briefing,
which was received with interest by Council members, was followed by a
detailed debate with the participation of all Council members, the
Executive Chairman said. He planned to propose an informal session
with Council members for a detailed and technical discussion of the
remaining issues on which Iraq needed to give an accounting.


A correspondent observed that Iraqi officials had been saying in
effect that no matter how much they cooperated with UNSCOM inspectors,
their assurances that Iraq had destroyed its capacity to make weapons
of mass destruction would not be accepted because some Commission
members were puppets of the United States and British Governments. The
correspondent also said that on the other hand, the Iraqi officials
also refused to accept the conclusions of non-UNSCOM experts who
attended the technical evaluation meetings at Iraq's request. The
correspondent asked what Mr. Butler's thoughts were on Iraq's
contradictory position.


Replying, Mr. Butler said Iraq was obliged to make a full disclosure
of its weapons of mass destruction, while the Commission was to verify
it and to determine its veracity. Together with Iraq, those weapons
were to be removed, destroyed or rendered harmless. The problem had
been with Iraq's statements of full disclosure which the Commission
had never been able to verify scientifically or technically to its
satisfaction. "There is very good scientific and technical support for
our difficulty in doing what we really want to do -- which is, to find
what Iraq had disclosed to be true. We want it to be true." Mr. Butler
reiterated that disarmament by declaration was against the Council's
resolutions. Iraq had to provide the materials to support its claims,
and that was where it failed. Iraq had all those materials in its
archives and records at its disposal.


Asked whether he believed that Iraq currently possessed any weapons of
mass destruction, and if so, to indicate the types, Mr. Butler said
Iraq had to show what happened to the weapons it made in the past and
might still hold. The Commission could not verify Iraq's claim that it
had no more prohibited missile, chemical weapon or biological weapon
capability. "We want to be able to do so, but we need positive
verification that what they created -- and they acknowledge they had
in the past -- have all been used, destroyed and somehow accounted
for, so that I can tell the Security Council that it is over."


He said, "If they really want this to be over, they should give it to
us. They promised in the Memorandum of Understanding that they would
give us full cooperation. That's all we ask. Our promise is when they
do that, they will find us competent, honest and quick." Responding to
another question, he said that UNSCOM bore the Iraqis no ill-will and
that they should provide the materials requested of them.


Mr. Butler told a correspondent that if he believed Iraqi accusations
that UNSCOM members were agents of the United States Central
Intelligence Agency, the questioner would believe anything. "That is
so shockingly wrong. It's just not true."


(end summary)