NEWS

UN arms inspector Dimitris Perricos says Saddam had no WMD

VIENNA (Reuters) – The face has changed but the words are the same: Hans Blix’s replacement as top UN arms inspector doubts Saddam Hussein had the banned weapons which the United States used as grounds to invade Iraq. Dimitris Perricos, acting chief of the United Nations’ UNMOVIC inspection agency since July 1, said he expects to return to Iraq one day to continue a search currently in the hands of a US group that he said had not passed on any information. «I still don’t believe the weapons would be there,» he told Reuters in his first interview with international media, late on Tuesday. «We inspected almost 500 sites, the important sites.» A Greek chemist who led the first UN team into Iraq in 1991 to seek and destroy weapons of mass destruction (WMD), Perricos was Blix’s deputy after UNMOVIC returned to Iraq last year after a four-year hiatus. In four months of inspections, they found no evidence the Iraqi president had hidden massive stockpiles of forbidden chemical or biological arms as Washington claimed. They returned to Baghdad last year with much intelligence about where Saddam had supposedly hidden his WMD. But the more the UN teams inspected, the weaker the intelligence appeared. «It’s becoming more and more difficult to believe stocks (of WMD) were there,» Perricos said, adding it was unlikely Saddam could have done a good job of quickly destroying them before the war and covering his tracks. «If you are in a hurry, you don’t do it systematically, with attention,» he said. «You leave more evidence, somewhere.» The current US-controlled inspection team, the Iraq Survey Group led by civilian former UN inspector David Kay, has not given UNMOVIC any information about what it has found in Iraq. «Most probably they have a lot of information,» Perricos said. «We don’t know. They have not contacted us for anything.» Blix has complained of savage media attacks before the war on UNMOVIC for not finding Iraq’s alleged WMD, which he blamed on the administration of US President George Bush. Blix said yesterday Saddam probably destroyed his weapons 10 years ago. Perricos was optimistic UNMOVIC would be able to return to Iraq to fulfill its mandate under UN Security Council resolution 1284, which assigned it the task of monitoring Iraq’s future compliance with international arms rules. «It’s not only up to the US and the UK. It’s more how the international community will finally see it. And up to now, we see that there is a role in the future for UNMOVIC.» He said it was not up to the occupiers to say there was no longer any threat emanating from inside Iraq, where there have been frequent attacks on US troops and continued chaos. «The situation is still unstable, we have to see how things develop,» he said.