View Full Version : U.N. Votes To Shut Down Iraqi WMD Inspection Program

06-29-2007, 07:39 PM
UN votes to shut down Iraqi WMD inspection program


Published: Friday June 29, 2007

Four years after the US-led invasion of Iraq failed to turn up suspected weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), the Security Council on Friday voted to terminate a UN program created to locate such weapons.

The vote to "immediately" shut down the work of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) was 14 in favor with only Russia abstaining, Belgium's UN ambassador Johan Verbeke, who chairs the council this month, announced.

UNMOVIC was set up in 1999 to verify that Iraq no longer had WMDs and had complied with its obligations not to acquire new proscribed arms.

UNMOVIC inspectors pulled out of Iraq on March 18, 2003, immediately before the US-led invasion, and were not allowed to return.

The work of hunting down Iraq's suspected WMDs was then taken over by a US-led coalition body, the Iraq Survey Group, but no weapons were found, seriously undermining what had been the major US and British argument for going to war.

"It's a historic day because it opens a new chapter with regard to Iraq and WMDs," US Ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters after the vote.

He conceded that while the United States had underestimated Iraq's WMD capability during the first Gulf War in 1991, it overestimated Iraqi capabilities in the runup to the 2003 war.

His Russian counterpart Vitaly Churkin meanwhile said he abstained because the resolution "does not provide for certification regarding the closing of the Iraqi file," with questions remaining about the fate of Iraqi military items under observation, the stockpile of other weapons and the program of dual-use weapons.

He said there was still "a lack of clarity about the fate of several dozen Iraqi missiles" which UN inspectors had not been able to destroy.

The US-British resolution "terminates immediately" the mandate of UNMOVIC as well as the work of the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) Iraq Nuclear Verification Office, responsible with dismantling the country's nuclear weapons program.

In a recent joint letter to the president of the Security Council, the United States and Britain stated that "all appropriate steps have been taken to secure, remove, disable ... eliminate or destroy all of Iraq's known weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles with a range greater than 150 kilometers."

The resolution urges Baghdad to continue to implement its constitutional commitment "to the non-proliferation, non-development, non-production and non-use of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and associated equipment."

In line with an Iraqi request, it directs UN chief Ban Ki-moon to transfer to Iraq's development fund all remaining unallocated funds drawn from the country's oil revenues to finance UNMOVIC work.

It also asks the UN chief "to take all necessary measures" to secure UNMOVIC archives and in particular ensure "that sensitive proliferation information or information provided in confidence by member states is kept under strict control."

Washington had for the past two years pressed for an end to all related UN inspection work there.

UNMOVIC succeeded the United Nations Special Commission for Iraq (UNSCOM), which itself grew out of the UN inspection process established after the 1991 Gulf war in which US-led forces booted invading Iraqi troops out of Kuwait.

Demetrius Perricos, the acting UNMOVIC executive chairman, told the council that the resolution "closes a cycle of many years of verification, where the UN showed that it can implement successfully the activities demanded by the international community despite difficulties and frequently a lack of cooperation from the inspected party."

But he warned that "in the present security environment of Iraq, the possibility should not be discounted that non-state actors may seek to acquire toxic agents or their chemical precursors in small quantities."

Perricos cited as an example the recent report use by insurgents in Iraq of toxic industrial chemicals such as chlorine, previously under UN monitoring, combined with explosives for dispersal.

"The possibility of non-state actors (insurgents) getting their hands on other -- more toxic -- agents is real," he added.

UNMOVIC, which by the end of last month had a core staff of 34 professionals from 19 nationalities, spends roughly one million dollars a month.