blix interview on wmd. from canada

  1. 6,931 Posts.
    Sep. 21, 2003. 02:43 PM

    Former U.N. chief weapons inspector Hans Blix, at home in Stockholm, says the U.S. and Britain "over-interpreted" intelligence reports that claimed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and described them as purveyors of "spin and hype."


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    Blix on the U.S., the U.N. and where WMD really are


    The following is an edited transcript of an interview with former U.N. chief arms inspector Hans Blix conducted by the Star's European bureau chief Sandro Contenta. The interview took place last week at Blix's apartment in Stockholm, Sweden.

    Q: So, you're back in the news. Why did you feel you had to speak out at this time?

    A: This wasn't anything new, really. Sometimes these things catch suddenly. But already when I was in New York, I was saying that, for every day that passes and nothing is found by the Americans and the Brits, the more we must ask ourselves, 'Was there anything? And, if not, why did they (the Iraqis) conduct themselves as they did for ten years during the 90s when the sanctions were on?'

    If they had nothing since the destruction in '91 of the biological and chemical and nuclear, and if that had been accepted and shown, then they could have got rid of the sanctions, and here they suffered from the sanctions all this years... So why did they behave like that?...

    Just after '95...there was much denial of access (for U.N. inspectors). And why? There was much haggling over how many inspectors entered a site. Why?...

    You may want to create an impression that you have something. On the one hand they (the Iraqis) tell the United Nations, 'lift the sanctions because we have done as you told us,' on the other hand they behave in such a way that the environment believes that they may have something after all. The U.S., when they invaded eventually, they were preparing themselves to meet chemical weapons. As you know, they brought these suits; they certainly believed in it, and they didn't need it and didn't find any stocks either.

    So maybe there was a wish on the Iraqi leaderships' side to create an impression that they were still dangerous, that there still was something. Now, that doesn't explain things up to the end, because surely they didn't want to remain interesting to the moment of their own destruction. So at the end, I think there must have been some poor calculation of the risk of the brinkmanship, that maybe they said, 'well, people are marching in the millions around the world on 3rd Ave. and 2nd Ave. and in London and Washington, and the French and the Germans and the Russians are against war, and they will not pull it off.' And Saddam had several times before in his life managed to slip off with brinkmanship. This is speculation.

    ... As I say, maybe they deliberately wanted to create this impression. Another sign of that could have been Saddam's frequent visits to scientific committees. He visited the atomic energy commission and he visited scientists and talked of their patriotic work. All that also was designed to give the impression that, yes, something was going on...

    We are not going to Iraq for the purpose of humiliating or provoking or harassing the Iraqis, but intrusive inspections there would be. And while the Iraqis from time to time they came out and they complained that we were spies, and were asking the wrong questions, and not behaving as we should, by and large they didn't stick to these accusations... and I don't think they really thought we were...

    We got intelligence from various quarters, including Americans and British... The first suspicion I had, perhaps, about this intelligence was in January of this year, when we had been to a number of these places and we had not found any weapons of mass destruction. In only three cases did we find anything at all, and one related to conventional ammunition, another related to a stash of nuclear documents and a third one related to illegally imported rocket engines...

    I said to myself, 'Now, if this is the best (intelligence) they have, then what is the rest? And I became suspicious of the intelligence. I'm not against intelligence, I think it's absolutely indispensable... but we on our side became suspicious about the quality of the intelligence...

    In a speech I gave at the end of February, when (U.S. Secretary of State) Colin Powell had had his big show on intelligence, I had the temerity to say that we had not found any weapons of mass destruction as a result of intelligence, and I took up one case that he had described and I said we were not convinced by that case... (It was) a chemical site with bunkers where they thought they had seen decontamination trucks. Our guys had been there a couple of times and had seen water trucks. So we didn't draw the same conclusion.

    So I only took up one (example), and it was considered very impudent to criticize the sec of state, whom I like — I like Colin Powell. But I thought it was my duty to say, 'hey caution a little about intelligence,' and I'm glad that I did, because it seems now more and more not substantiated, or even falling apart.

    The most flagrant case, of course, being the yellowcake (uranium) contract, which was a forgery. I'm not sure the British have given up altogether the allegation that Iraq was trying to import yellowcake, but the contract with Niger has been shown to be a forgery. And it only took the IAEA a day or two to figure it out. And President Bush had talked about it in the State of the Union message. The first time I heard about allegations that Iraq imported yellow cake I said, 'well it's possible, we don't exclude anything.' On the other hand, to the layman, when you talk about imported uranium, ah, that's bombs. But the difficulty in making nuclear bombs is not getting the raw material from the mines, it's enriching it to 80, 90 per cent level. And here is something that is not at all enriched.... Importing yellowcake was a damn long way from a bomb.

    So I was wondering, what now, in the year 2000 is this about. I didn't exclude it, maybe the British still will come up with some evidence, but I thought it was a bit farfetched.

    Then came the aluminum tubes, which had been illegally imported -- there was no doubt about that -- and the Iraqis claim that they had imported them to make 81-mm rockets, and I think that most experts now would agree that that was probably the purpose. Colin Powell had made a big thing about that in his presentation to the U.N. and he also said there could be some doubt about that, he did say that. But it has now surfaced that the energy department in Washington, which had the experts and who run U.S. enrichment plants today, did not think it was for enrichment and to make centrifuges.

    Then you had the mobile labs. We were looking for mobile labs and Iraqis were showing them to us but none of these were for the production of biological weapons. And we were still groping for methods for checking road traffic because it was partly the mobile labs but there was also the allegation that the Iraqis were moving stuff every 12 hours, so we wanted to check on that. They were not prohibited to move conventional weapons, but they were prohibited form having weapons of mass destruction. So we were looking into that, we did not exclude anything; there were several intelligence agencies that were convinced about it. We didn't find them, we also looked at places where such trucks could be hooked up to get electricity and water — we had an effort on this and didn't find them. Then the U.S. and the U.K. came in (to Iraq) and low and behold they found some trucks and they proclaimed, 'these are the biotrucks for sure.' But after a while it fell apart, and poor Dave Kelly, who committed suicide, he was evidently convinced that they were not for making weapons but they were for production of hydrogen, which (the Iraqis) had said. And it surfaced that the U.S. armed forces were also using such trucks for the production of hydrogen for making weather balloons.

    The last case I heard about was the drones... I was accused in the American media for not revealing that we had found some drones that were intended for the dissemination of chemical and biological weapons. Well, we were looking at it, and we certainly didn't exclude it completely, but we certainly were not ready for that accusation. Now I read that the major expertise in the U.S. have concluded that they were for surveillance purposes, and not for the dissemination.

    So here are four concrete cases which were significant and which have fallen apart. Now, this does not mean that all question marks are straightened out. Neither UNMOVIC nor UNSCOM maintained that there were weapons of mass destruction. We simply said there are lots of things that are unaccounted for... And I said in one of my speeches, 'look, unaccounted for is not the same thing as existed; it might exist it might not exist. They're unaccounted for and we would like to come to clarity about them.' Well, we still don 't know, they are still unaccounted for.

    Q: What do you believe about these unaccounted items now?

    A: ...I'm inclined to think that they were destroyed in 1991 probably, as they said. This is also what (Hussein) Kamal (head of Iraq's secret bio-weapons program) said when he defected. So, it could still be a lie, but I'm inclined to that conclusion. And that is why I'm asking the question now, 'If they did destroy in '91, if they didn't have anything of significance after '91, why did they conduct themselves in a manner that gave rise to consistent suspicions?'

    Q: When you consider the four examples you gave of things that turned out to be unfounded, what conclusions do you draw? Was it part of an American and British plan?

    A: Well, it's a little like witch hunting. If you believe there are witches, and you look hard, you will probably find them; they did so in the Middle Ages. They wanted to come to that conclusion. And people have said that, we looked a lot at his (Saddam's) record. He's a man who really wanted them and he made use of them in the past, and he probably still has ambitions, so the suspicion was justified — I think so too.

    However, I think that what stands accused today is the culture of spin and the culture of hype. Now, we are used to advertising, exaggerating and hyping things, and we don't take it so seriously. We know that you guys (journalists) want to make sensations of everything, so you are likely to exaggerate a bit and pick out the juicy pieces. And we also know that governments have to simplify to explain to the public that we want to pursue this policy for the following reasons, and it cannot be too complicated. But at the same time we expect governments to be very respectable and to be dependable and I think here is where they went too far. They over-interpreted what they saw. They wanted to come to a conclusion, and they served (up) things that in some cases certainly turned out to be wrong... In Iraq's case, exclamation marks were placed where question marks should have been used...

    I'm not accusing Bush or Blair for telling lies deliberately; I don't think so. I think what they said, they said in good faith. But if you look at the American administration and you look at the yellowcake contract, then you cannot help but conclude there was a scandal — a scandal — that an allegation of this kind can come up to a State of the Union message when there are, within the administration, valid investigations into it and suspicions. This is poor.

    And I think in the U.K. they had also their scandal. They had an essay by some student in 1991 that had been copied over into their (intelligence) document —well this is scandalous. I'm not accusing Bush or Blair, again, of bad faith — no. But I think that they were responsible, at the same time, for the machinery, for the administrations they had. And there was certainly a failure of them. And we as citizens, we as voters, we would like and expect our governments to be more dependable than both media and Madison Ave.

    Q: Perhaps there wasn't wilful lying, but spin suggests manipulation, to some extent.

    A: Yes, well in politics you always do to some extend; you have to simplify and you don't have every nuance. And when I read the abridged (British government) dossier which was circulated in September of last year; well, you can formulate things in such a way that the reader is lead to a conclusion... I can also formulate things like that, but as inspectors we did not. Inspectors in a way we were in an easier situation; we didn't have to declare war, we didn't have to take decisions, we were to present an accurate picture for the Security Council. We were international civil servants... That's perhaps why the public liked us because they liked to have what they felt was a more credible presentation, and we gave it to them, despite the fact that a lot of these governments would have hoped that we would come with sexier images.

    Q: If I recall correctly, you described the British claim that Iraq could deploy weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes as fundamentally wrong.

    A: Well, no, not really... They have come out of these (Hutton Inquiry) hearings saying, well, they did not refer to long-range weapons, they were referring to mortars. Well I never heard of spreading biological weapons by mortars or even chemical weapons by mortars. Nevertheless, it (the 45 minute claim) is not really meaningful unless you explain it further. In this sense I wouldn't even say that it was a lie. I would simply say that it is suggesting something to the reader to come to a conclusion that is related to some facts, but is not meaningful.

    Q: And what conclusions did they want us to draw?

    A: The conclusion was that they (Iraqis) were dangerous. Another detail that has not been picked-up by media, is that the British report was circulated in September, and on the strength of the report they urged that Iraq should now accept inspections. It was not to suggest that there should be war; it was for inspections. So the British did not exclude, it is logical, that inspections could then clarify these issues — fine, that makes it a little more innocent, maybe. Of course if they denied inspections, and the British expected that, therefore only arms remain. The threat (of war) is here but they didn't say at that time we should go to war.

    Q: I've been to Iraq a couple of times and I know that all a journalist has to do is set foot in the country and they put together a file an inch thick on you. When it came to documentation, they were bureaucratic madmen. So how can anyone believe that they destroyed their WMDs in 1991 without documenting it?

    A: We didn't believe that. They said that the order was to destroy all the biological and chemical weapons, and all the documentation, and we never believed that... And they came and they said, 'we have names of the people who took part in the transportation and in the destruction.' And we said, 'now that's very interesting, and we'd like to interview them, however...if you have such detailed information about who transported what where, surely you have some documentation of the quantities'... I still think that this is puzzling, and some documentation might be found...

    They did pour (some of) it into the ground...Our suspicion was of course that if they say that we destroyed it all unilaterally — sorry you weren't there but we destroyed it all — did they squirrel away some of it; that was the suspicion. And our suspicion was particularly strong on anthrax...There are strong indications that they retained some (anthrax)...

    And if they had retained it, would it still be valid now? Could they have been able to use it?... We thought they had been able to dry (anthrax) but we could never prove that. If it had been dried, well then it would have been valid even today. So anthrax was the sector where we came closest to conclude that they had some weapons retained but we did not go all the way to say that.

    Q: Did you have any dealings with Dr. Kelly?

    A: Oh yes. He was an inspector during UMSCOM and a very prominent one, very knowledgeable. We did not use him as an inspector but I did meet him many times, and he was also engaged by us as a teacher for future inspectors on the biological teams.

    Q: After the row broke in Britain did you speak to him then?

    A: No, never after that. My speculation about him is that I saw him as a very respectable and very knowledgeable biological expert — a scientist -- and I think he applied his scientific thinking to his work, and that means critical thinking. And that led him to conclude that the Iraqis had been lying, or that they had not told us the whole truth, so he was very critical vis a vis the Iraqis. But when he applied the same scientific thinking and looked at the whole (September intelligence) report of his own govternment, he said, 'ah, this is going too far.' So I think the same intellectual honesty and critical thinking led him to be skeptical about some things his own government was saying. Now he was serving this government, and he came to a conclusion that was not comfortable for his own government, so he would have been wise not to talk to the media at all in such a situation. But he had been used by the government to explain to media, so he did so again...

    Q: Had he ever expressed those reservations with you?

    A: No, not really. We did not talk about British hyping at all.

    Q: At what point in the process did you come to the conclusion yourself that war was inevitable?

    A: Not during the process. People say, 'surely this was just a charade and they had decided in the summer of 2002 that this was going to happen.' We know well that Vice- President Cheney came out in August of 2002 and said that inspections were useless at best, and I'm sure that he maintained that view, and so did (U.S. Deputy Defence Secretary Paul) Wolfowitz and the Pentagon on the whole. And I would assume that the military then were planning for military action and they were beginning to build up militarily around Iraq. And I'm also quite sure that Iraqis would not have gone along with inspections if they had not felt this pressure. So I'm not critical of military pressure. I think it was necessary and sometimes is necessary, and they went on with there planning... Of course if they could get Iraq to disarm without the use of arms or killing people, they would have preferred that, but at the same time many doubted very much that this would be the result. So they plan and plan and by January of this year, they feel that it's not very far away, but that doesn't mean that they go to war until the decision is taken. And I remember well that in 1998 the Americans had airplanes on their way to Iraq when (President Bill) Clinton had decided to withdraw them because (U.N. Secretary-General) Kofi Annan had found some solution to the crisis. So while you are building up with a view to, and thereby exercising pressure and perhaps making the Iraqis crack, at the same time you still have the freedom to say no. And the British. even at the very end in their compromise efforts, they were tabling texts under which there would be either two elements, one that Saddam would be make a big television speech in which he prostrated, or showed a change of heart, and the other would be that they would demonstrate on five different points that they were actually disarming. So if the Iraqis had done that maybe it would have been called off. So I never excluded that the military action that was being planned, and gradually prepared for, that it could be called off at some stage.

    Q: How much pressure were the Americans putting on you at the time?

    A: My relations with Colin Powell and (National Security Adviser) Condi Rice and with (U.N.) Ambassador (John) Negroponte were absolutely civil all the way through and I never felt there was any inappropriate pressure... But the media yes; The rightwing hawkish media, they were voracious. There was a headline in the New York Post one day that said, 'Blix Tricks Irk U.S.,' I thought that was very good. I laughed a great deal at it.

    Q: In your reports, especially your January report, you outlined the many ways Iraq was not cooperating, and the anthrax and VX unaccounted for...

    A: ... The reality is that the Iraqis did become rattled at the end of January, and they came up with all kinds of new ideas. Cooperation was suppose to be immediate, active and unconditional, and one could not say it was immediate because in December, they had this long, long declaration, and that was a disappointment, terrible, it was. We said, 'you're just copying old stuff'... And it was almost like an affront; they also talked about so-called disarmament issues. There was a tone of arrogance in it. And we were haggling about the U2 planes and we were haggling about the interviews (of scientists), so they dragged their feet.

    I did not at all intend to play in the hands of anybody, certainly not, I simply felt I had to give an accurate picture of this, and that came out rather negatively. It came out as, they were cooperating on process but we did not see a genuine cooperation on substance. And then they became rattled. And they began to say, here are lots of names of people you can interview, here we have invented a new scheme to analyse the soil in the places where we destroyed the stuff in 1991... you could see that they were getting, not only proactive but almost frantic...

    If you had asked me on the 6th of March (the day before the U.S. and U.K. issued the St. Patrick's Day deadline for Iraq to disarm), 'Do you believe there are weapons of mass destruction?' I would have said, 'Sorry, I don't know. But I cannot exclude it at all.' Today I'm inclined more to the conclusion, having had the Americans and the Brits there for a long time, I'm inclining more to the conclusion, 'No I don't think so.' Al Saadi, who was my opposite number, when he surrendered — he was the first of the 52 on the cards to surrender — he said 'There are no weapons of mass destruction and time will bear me out.' He said that on German television, his wife was German. And Al Saadi is a man of very high caliber. Now, he said there aren't weapons of mass destruction. He didn't say that there weren't any capabilities. And I think if I would look for something now, I would more look at: did they try to retain any jump-start capabilities?

    Q: Like programs and factories?

    A: Yeah, about this they lied in the early '90s. They tried to preserve the factories, and you can understand that; a developing country having huge factories, they don't like to see them blown to pieces just because they were used for chemical weapons, they could be used for something else. But they were destroyed. A country with a petrochemical industry as they have, to change from one production line to another may not be all that difficult... The difference between vaccine factory and a factory for biological weapons is largely the difference of intention.

    So, as long as there is such a capacity, whether in Iraq or in any other country, you can say there will be a capability of some sort. But did they deliberately try to retain that? This I don't know. I would certainly look at, do they find any documents or any indications that Saddam gave orders that they must preserve this or that, or orders of particular lines of research, this I don't know. And I don't exclude that they could have done that. That they tried to cheat on the missiles is clear. They were allowed to have missiles up to 150 kilometres and they went a bit beyond that... The Al Samoud II, if they had been fitted with two engines then I think it could have gone much further than it did. The Indians have done such a thing

    Q: So they could still have facilities to jump start production of biological or chemical weapons?

    A: So my thinking has developed: In the actual possession of weapons of mass destruction — no, and that very likely it was destroyed in '91. As to the capability and factories, I think one should still look for that. It's not certain that they retained it, but I don't think I'm at the stage that I would exclude that...

    But not for nuclear... that's a big infrastructure and the IAEA would know, and I don't think anyone seriously believes that. Perhaps that was one of the worst part of the spin, that they (British and Americans) still tried to maintain through the spin that the Iraqis were doing something in the nuclear field, and that seemed very dodgy...

    Q: How dangerous was Iraq to regional stability?

    A: I don't think it was very dangerous, actually, at the time. I personally did not think they were very dangerous. If the U.S. and the U.K. had said that the uncertainty about their WMDs is unbearable, then I don't think anyone could criticize them. What they said was that the certainty is there; the weapons are there for sure, and they are dangerous now. And that was a contention made on uncertain, and as it proved in many respects, erroneous ground. If they had said that the regime is so horrible and so cruel and one of the worst in the world, and therefore we have to liberate the Iraqi people, I don't think anyone could contradict that. It was probably, together with the North Koreans, one of the cruellest regimes we see around the world...

    Their army was half or a third of (what it was at) the Gulf War, and their nuclear infrastructure had been destroyed. I didn't exclude that they had chemical or biological weapons, certainly not. But in such a manner and such quantity, and deployable so that they really were more dangerous than around the Gulf War? No, less, certainly less.

    Q: So why were the Americans so keen on going to war?

    A: I think it had to do with the 9/11. The attitudes between Europe and the United States, even between Canada and the U.S. were very different...The U.S. had never been attacked on its own territory before and they were incensed. They wanted to demonstrate to the world that, 'We will strike back, and don't have any illusions about this.' And they did strike against the Taliban, and I think the world accepted that because the Taliban, after all, had hosted Al Qaeda, and the U.S. said, 'you take out the Taliban or we take you out,' and they took out the Taliban. And then they went on... It was not sufficient. They had to go on and to see another target. And Saddam was an evident target. I mean, he was unfinished business...

    Blair felt very strongly about the horror of the (Iraqi) regime...That raises another question: do we go to war in order to take out horrible regimes? What do we do with another genocide. If you have the Khmer Rouge turning up and killing people, do we go to war? I think the Security Council would not have any great difficulty, if they saw a genocide somewhere, in authorizing the use of armed force. I think the question will be, which country is willing to send its boys, and use the billions (of dollars) to take them out. In the case of Iraq there was strategic reasons for this -- the oil, the Middle East. But would the U.S. be ready to send 250,000 men to Burundi in order to stop horrors from the government?

    Q: How badly was the U.N. damaged due to the fact that the war was launched without Security Council approval?

    A: Quite a lot. You remember that Bush said that either you defend your resolutions and uphold them, or if you do not intervene, if you don't vote with us, you are sentencing yourself to irrelevance... Now, I would ask myself, 'Is not the authority of the Security Council undermined by the fact that two or three of its members are willing to take action despite the fact that the rest of the council is against it?' I would have thought so.

    Two criteria I think would be relevant (for pre-emptive wars): One, if you don't have an armed attack, at least you must have a threat that you are very sure about. And here (with Iraq), it seems that the intelligence is falling apart. The threat was not what it was made out to be. And the second is that there must be some imminence about the threat. It's not a threat of what can happen 10 years from now. Because, then, if you have 10 years to go, then you may have other measures, you may have diplomatic, economic etc. and of course, what they talk about nowadays is foreign policy by obituary — you wait until the guy dies.

    Two criteria then, a threat that is tangible and certain, which there was not here, and the other is the imminence...And I think on both these counts that I would put up, I think the action (in Iraq) did not live up to the criteria — the lenient criteria that you would put in the place of the (U.N.) Charter provisions. So that's the discussion for the future. Pre-emption; at what time does the US say we can have pre-emption? The U.S. will say... 'We don't exclude the use of force.' Okay, on what grounds then? On this basis (used in Iraq) or a little higher? And I think we would all like it to be a little higher.

    Q: So clearly, according to you criteria, the Iraq war was...

    A: Was not justified. Not at the time. But mind you, if the Iraqis had not cooperated with us in the spring and in the summer, I don't think that the Security Council would have given them more time. And nor did I urge any. I thought that 3 ½ months was too little after four years of no inspections at all...But we didn't want inspections to go on forever...So no one was urging unlimited inspections. But it would have been reasonable to continue inspections over the spring, and the summer and into the autumn. But I think what stood against that is that you can't have 250,000 men sitting in the dessert for the whole spring and summer, and so that was out. But it was not me who put the 250,00 men there. They could have stopped at 50,000, or 20,000 and given themselves and everybody a little longer time.

    Q: Had the U.S. and the Britain already decided on war, and then did the spin to support it?

    A: No, I don't think they wanted war. I think they were convinced that they would not be able to disarm Iraq without war, and therefore they planned for the contingency of war. At the same time they said Iraq can stop this anytime. It is in Iraq's hands to show a change of heart and to deliver the weapons. The trouble was, you see, what could Iraq do if they didn't have the weapons? If they didn't have any anthrax, if they didn't have any VX, what the hell could they deliver?.... They could have speeded up destruction of the Al Samoud missiles, they could have done that within two weeks if they speeded it up to show good will. They could send scientists for interviews abroad, which they never did...they cold have given quick explanations on the drones; that was doable.

    Q: Did the Iraqis realize at some point that war was inevitable?

    A: No, I think they hoped until the very last moment... even after the 6th of March they sent an invitation to (chief nuclear arms inspector) Mohammed (ElBaradei) and myself to go to Baghdad. But then of course it was too late and we would not have gone without some assurance that something spectacular would happen. If they had said that Saddam Hussein wants to meet you, well that would have been something more tangible. Simply to speed up inspections would not have been helpful at the time. And the American and the British reactions were negative; I didn't really exclude it until the very last moment, but it was too late. The game was up by that time.

    Q: So they hadn't understood the gravity of the situation?

    A: That's right, I think they had not. Al Saadi might well have understood, but it was not he who decided at all.

    Q: What will you do now?

    A: The Swedish government appointed me to head an international, independent commission of experts on how to combat or how to do away with WMDs. And we are now planning to put together the commission and start working towards the end of January some time, and we expect it to take about two years. It was (slain foreign minister) Anna Lindh who asked me to take charge...

    We have the biological convention, we have the chemical convention, we have the non-proliferation treaty... but North Koreans have missiles, Iranians are enriching uranium... What about the nuclear weapons state? ... Are the Americans going to develop a new nuclear weapon that will penetrate the ground down to how many metres? 20 metres? And what happens then?

    The NPT (Non-proliferation Treaty) laid a duty upon the nuclear weapons state to reach nuclear disarmament. And they have come down from 50,000 some weapons down to an agreement on a few thousand now. But a few thousand nuclear weapons? Hah. Is that something innocent or should someone not discuss how does the world go on?...

    Terrorism is a new question that requires a lot of attention and thinking. But we should not be so absorbed in it that we completely forget that the big states should also do away with their arsenals...

    Basically I'm rather optimistic about the future. Some people nostalgically talk about the cold war when things were stable. But the Cold War, when the U.S. and the Russians could obliterate the world in an exchange was a lot less pleasant than today's world. The world is not safe, there are lots of problems, but still, the end of the Cold War is a wonderful thing that has happened. All the big players are pragmatic today... And I think that's to the good.... So I'm very optimistic. I'm more worried about the environment in the future than WMDs. Both have to be tackled, but the environment, with the greenhouse effect, I think is much more worrisome...

    Q: Do you regret the experience you had as the U.N.'s chief weapons inspector?

    A: Not the experience, but I regret the outcome. That's an important point: while I have said publicly that I cannot reconcile the action with the U.N. Charter requirements, I do not exclude that something good could come out of it, and I certainly hope it will, although it looks pretty gloomy right now. Certainly a good result is that Saddam's regime is gone, everybody agrees about that. But it doesn't lead me to the conclusion that the war was legal retrospectively.

    But of course, we must go forward. I don't intend to regurgitate this for years. No. But let's try to establish what happened (so we don't do this again). And get some constructive approaches to WMDs. We want to get rid of them, both in Iraq and in Israel and Iran, North Korea, and the United States.

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