NEWS

No WMD traces found in Iraq

At the same time the nuclear threat facing our planet has been «displaced» from Iraq to North Korea, Dimitris Perricos has been nominated head of the United Nations’ arms inspectors’ unit. Following 28 years of service at the UN, the 68-year-old chemist replaced Hans Blix as head of the UN’s Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, or UNMOVIC. In this interview, Perricos says he believes that Saddam Hussein «was hiding something» in the whole debate over weapons of mass destruction. He also talks about the efforts of UNMOVIC to publish on the Internet all the results of inspections in Iraq so that they are accessible to everyone and that nothing remains concealed. Finally, he analyzes the nuclear and ballistic capabilities of North Korea. Do you believe that weapons of mass destruction will eventually be found in Iraq? This is a question that has been plaguing us all. Everything started when Saddam Hussein’s regime failed to clarify the things it should have done, did not respond to questions it was asked. Evidently, Saddam was hiding something. On the other hand, when you put everything together, you realize certain things, for example, that Iraq has imported a very large number of Scud missiles but has not used them all. It has dropped some on Iran, some in Kuwait, some in Israel. When you try and draw up the balance, sometimes it doesn’t come right. So, when considering weapons which have been unaccounted for, you can either assume that they exist or that they do not exist. The same applies for the anthrax that was produced in Iraq. There is always a certain amount that cannot be accounted for. This does not necessarily mean that this amount does not exist. There was another thing too. From 1993-1994 and onward, we could not find any weapons apart from those we already knew the Iraqis had in their possession. Something was not right because we were unable to find anything, despite conducting continuous inspections. Even the first spot checks only unearthed bits and pieces which appeared to have been abandoned or thrown away. Do you believe that the evidence you presented to the United Nations constituted a casus belli for the launch of a war against Iraq? Of course not! No «smoking gun» was found anywhere. What we found was not significant enough to count as evidence. We had been searching for those mobile workshops there had been so much talk about. Two workshops were found, but inspections conducted inside them did not categorically prove that they had been used for the production of biological and chemical weapons. What is your opinion of British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s assertion that «history will forgive us for the war in Iraq»? History may show other things. The war on Iraq had been analyzed from all viewpoints, including the reasons for which it was launched. There are those who believe that the war was necessary simply to topple Saddam’s regime. If more mass graves are found, and the horrific crimes committed by the Iraqi regime continue to be revealed, the world – because it is the world that will make the final judgment – may start thinking that, although the justification may not have been adequate, someone had to relieve the Iraqis of Saddam Hussein. Of course, we must wait and see what the long-term effects of the war will be. If things go well and the regime change in Iraq brings with it a democratic model, which can be emulated by neighboring countries, then people will realize that ultimately the conflict brought peace to the region. If Iraq proves to be a breeding ground for chaos, then only negative conclusions will be drawn. We have to wait to see if history will vindicate us. What are the nuclear capabilities of North Korea? About two years ago, I had said that the biggest threat we face is posed by North Korea, which has the ability to produce nuclear material as well as having a strong missile systems program. So, currently the situation there is even more dangerous than it was in Iraq in 2000-2001. Things have become even more complex this year since North Korea pulled out of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. Experts believe there is a second nuclear reprocessing plant in North Korea, although they are not certain, and so everyone is walking on eggshells. No one wants to create tension in the area. Everyone is attempting to solve the problem peacefully but unfortunately, North Korea has been left a large margin within which to develop its nuclear program.