UNITED NATIONS (Jun. 27)
Concern is mounting here that Iraq has been deceiving the world community about the extent of its nuclear weapons program, which it pledged to dismantle in the aftermath of the Persian Gulf War.
During a hastily convened Security Council meeting Wednesday evening, the U.S. deputy representative, Alexander Watson, said there is a great deal of evidence showing that Iraq has been conducting a covert nuclear program, including an attempt to produce weapons-usable material.
He said the United States has evidence that Iraq has been seeking to produce nuclear material and acquire nuclear weaponry, contrary to its obligations under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
Watson referred to reports from an Iraqi defector and displayed intelligence photographs purportedly showing uranium-enrichment machinery being moved or buried to evade detection by U.N. inspectors.
Security Council members have expressed anger over Iraq’s apparent refusal to comply with inspection of its nuclear facilities, and they urged Iraq to cooperate with the ongoing investigation.
An Israeli official said Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s “way of deception was proved once again” and added that steps must be taken to ensure he is not allowed to further his nuclear ambitions.
“We were worried about Iraq for many months, both before the crisis and also after the war,” said the official, who requested anonymity Watson warned during a council session that Iraq might also be hiding other aspects of its military capability, especially its chemical weapons infrastructure.
ENVOY LAUDS COUNCIL’S ROLE
Watson called on the Security Council to ensure Iraq’s compliance with Resolution 687, which calls for the destruction or removal of much of Iraq’s military hardware, such as ballistic weapons and nuclear materials.
Iraq will not be allowed to export its oil until the Security Council agrees that Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction have been removed.
Iraq, which accepted the resolution, must also allow for on-site inspection of various sites. But on June 23, Iraq refused to allow an International Atomic Energy Agency team to inspect a military site. Security Council officials said this was an example of Iraq’s deceptive practices.
While Iraqi officials said the delay was due to a Moslem holiday, agency officials trying to gain access to the site said they saw large cranes and trucks remove some materials from the area.
The team was permitted to enter on Wednesday, “at which time, however, activities which had been observed from a distance during the first visit had ceased, and objects that had been seen had been removed,” according to an agency report from Vienna.
Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Yoram Aridor, who often complains bitterly about the Security Council’s anti-Israel bias, praised the council Thursday for its “positive role” in investigating Iraqi weaponry facilities.
But during a news briefing Thursday, he said, “We know exactly what the United Nations stands for Certainly, it doesn’t stand for Israel.”