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angry arms inspectors hit out

  1. klown

    3,363 posts.
    Feb 22 2003




    From Richard Wallace, Us Editor, In New York


    US spy chiefs were branded "time wasters " yesterday after weapons inspectors rubbished their evidence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

    Angry and frustrated at being given vague or wrong information, a senior member of the UN team said they had been fed "garbage after garbage after garbage".

    The inspector said: " It took a long time for the US to hand over intelligence in the first place and when they did it has proved to be highly inaccurate.

    "Intelligence is circumstantial, outdated or completely wrong. It's wasting our time and our resources.

    "Frankly, we have better things to do than run around the country chasing bogus so-called evidence."

    The broadside will fuel UN Security Council opposition to war on Iraq just as the US and Britain seek a new resolution supporting the use of force.

    It came as Tony Blair and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw again tried to put the "moral" case for a military strike. Mr Blair said: "I can't avoid war unless Saddam chooses peaceful disarmament."

    Earlier this month, US Secretary of State Colin Powell presented a 90-minute dossier of "undeniable" evidence to the Security Council claiming it proved Saddam Hussein was harbouring WMD. But inspectors claim:

    They found nothing at an alleged nuclear research site shown in satellite pictures presented to the UN by Mr Powell.

    They found nothing at one of Saddam's palaces where they were given precise map co-ordinates of incriminating evidence.

    US claims that aluminium tubes imported by Iraq were being used for enriching uranium rather than to make rockets were bogus. One inspector said: "The Iraqi alibi on this is airtight."

    The Iraqi al-Samoud 2 missile system - which the US says has a range of 800 miles, way above the 93-mile limit - flies only 15 miles over the legal range.

    Charges that Iraq is developing missiles that can hit Kuwait or Israel are "increasingly unbelievable".

    The inspectors told respected US broadcaster CBS News they now believe they are caught in the middle between Iraqi delaying tactics and America's thirst for war.

    When Mr Powell spoke to the Security Council he admitted photographic evidence of alleged Iraqi wrongdoing was "sometimes hard for the average person to interpret." He produced tapes in which Iraqi officers talked about hiding "forbidden" ammunition and removing the phrase "nerve agents" from documents.

    He claimed Osama bin Laden twice met senior Iraqi intelligence officials and Iraq offered chemical and bio-terror training to al-Qaeda.

    He also insisted Iraq was developing nuclear weapons, but produced no evidence of a bomb factory. Much of his presentation relied on "human sources" which could not be proved.

    Yesterday the US and Britain were putting the finishing touches on their new resolution to the Security Council.

    But most of the 15 Council members are opposed to war, at least until weapons inspectors report again in mid-March.

    Mr Powell said: "We won't put a resolution down unless we believe we can make the case that it is appropriate."

    In New York, a UN spokesman said Iraq had submitted a list of people involved in the destruction of banned weapons - a key demand by chief weapons inspector Hans Blix.

    The weapons inspectors' damning criticism was a huge blow for Mr Blair who is due to meet the Pope today for talks on the crisis.

    Speaking after a summit with Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, Mr Blair said yesterday: "Let me make one thing plain. We do not want war, no one wants war.

    "But there is a moral dimension to this. If we fail to disarm Saddam peacefully then where does this leave the authority of the UN? Where does it leave the Iraqi people?

    "I totally share the dislike of any member of the church or wider society for war. But in the end, I can't avoid it unless Saddam chooses peaceful disarmament. He knows what he has to do. Does he have the will?"

    Mr Blair said talks were still continuing on the wording of a second UN resolution. But he held out little prospect for peace, saying Iraqi co-operation with weapons inspectors had been "less in the last few days".

    In London Mr Straw said Saddam must be disarmed by force if necessary.

    He told the Royal Institute for International Affairs: "As people come to learn more about the nature of the regime, I am convinced they will increasingly see why it must be disarmed of its terrible weaponry, even if - as a last resort - that means military action.

    "Recent intelligence shows Saddam's military plans envisage using chemical and biological weapons against a range of targets. Let us be clear Iraq will again use these terrible weapons.

    "This is a key part of the moral case - preventing Iraq launching more wars of aggression and dealing definitively with a tyrant who continues to flout international law."

    On Wednesday the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor issued a statement doubting the "moral legitimacy" of war.

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