When the UNO, the IAEA, the Secretary General of the UN, most of the international community and even the USA’s staunchest ally, the United Kingdom, all declare that more time has to be given to the weapons inspectors, George Bush declares that on February 5th the USA will present evidence to the UN Security Council that the Ba’ath regime in Iraq has ties to Al-Qaeda.
Dr. Hans Blix, the leader of the UNMOVIC inspection team, told the security council on Tuesday that by and large, Iraq is cooperating: "The most important point to make is that access has been provided to all sites we have wanted to inspect and with one exception, it has been prompt.” However, he also declared that more needs to be done to clear up whether or not there are missing documents and to find evidence that biological and chemical weapons have been destroyed.
The hasty tacking together by the Iraqi authorities of 12,000 pages on the weapons programmes left its mark: there are gaps and inconsistencies. For the UNO, these are questions that must be solved and clarified. For the USA, it is evidence that Saddam Hussein is lying.
It is not only Hans Blix who insists that the Iraqi regime is cooperating. Mohammed El Baradei, of the International Atomic Energy Agency declared also that there is no evidence that Iraq has a nuclear weapons programme, despite statements to the contrary by Washington. "With our verification system now in place, barring exceptional circumstances, and provided there is sustained proactive cooperation by Iraq, we should be able within the next few months to provide credible assurance that Iraq has no nuclear weapons programme," he stated.
Kofi Annan, meanwhile, is of the opinion that “if they do need time, they should be given the time to do their work and all of us, the Council when they sent them, must have realized that time will be necessary - a reasonable amount of time," the Secretary-General said in the UNO Headquarters in New York on Tuesday.
Regional leaders have joined in the stance taken by president Vladimir Putin that the onus is very much upon Iraq to collaborate with the weapons inspectors. Washington repeatedly declares that it has “evidence” that Iraq is hiding its WMD programmes but when pressed, has not presented any hard facts. The British intelligence services, hard as they try, have been unable to find a link between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda.
Through its recent activities in Bosnia and Kosovo, the USA is far more likely to have ties with Al-Qaeda than Saddam Hussein. Suspecting that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction is insubstantial. Fearing that some day in the future such weapons, if they exist, might fall into the wrong hands is also insubstantial and neither provide the grounds, under international law, to mount a full-scale war on a country.
How many countries can declare that their nuclear power plants are 100% secure against terrorist raids to destroy or to steal? The fact that Al-Qaeda are present in tens of countries does not mean that these countries have links with Al-Qaeda.
The onus also remains very much upon Washington to back up its words with hard evidence, which the rest of the world would be very interested to hear. Constant half-statements and insinuations do not constitute hard evidence.
Timothy BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.Ru