Former UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix again criticized the way U.S. and U.K leaders handled information in the run-up to the Iraq war. He also warned leaders to remain wary of North Korea during his lecture tour.
The normally mild-mannered Hans Blix revealed an underlying bitterness left over from the Iraq war.
Hans Blix is not considered someone who likes to rekindle old flames. But speaking to journalists in Berlin on Tuesday, the former United Nations chief weapons inspector Hans Blix stressed that he was still angry about the way U.S. and British government leaders treated the information obtained by his team in the lead-up to the Iraq war.
Blix recalled that the inspectors visited nearly 70 sites in Iraq and never found anything substantial that might have justified the war. He admitted that many things had remained unaccounted for, but said more inspections on the ground could have helped answer important questions.
"We said that you cannot put an equation mark between 'unaccounted for' and 'existing.' And I said that in a statement to the Security Council quite squarely," Blix explained. "The U.S. side did not really register this; they didn't care. They believed more in the defectors in their own intelligence than they believed in us."
Before the war, Blix presented to the UN Security Council a 173-page report on Iraq's weapons, in which he said that the country had failed to show it had destroyed all of its anthrax supplies and Scud missile warheads filled with biological and chemical agents.
Cooperation between intelligence and inspectors
A North Korean Scud-B missile, (right) and South Korean missiles are displayed at the War Memorial Museum in Seoul.
Despite his experience with Iraq, Blix reiterated his call to use international inspectors to contain the threat of weapons of mass destruction elsewhere in the world. He specifically mentioned North Korea and Libya, where the UN monitoring, verification and inspection commission could be of vital importance. Blix said he hoped cooperation between such inspection teams and intelligence networks would become much closer in the years ahead.
"The satellites see the roofs, but they don't see what's going on under the roofs and that speaks in favor of cooperation between intelligence and inspectors," he said. "(Intelligence services) also have all the electronic eavesdropping that is going on in the ether... They have spies on the ground. They are spending billions. The Americans haven't found anything. We also didn't find anything but at less cost."
Keep North Korea under control
Blix noted, that much more needed to be done to keep North Korea under control -- despite recent efforts to at least keep the dialogue going. He commented that in addition to verifying the extent of a North Korean nuclear program, the country should also be put under to pressure to reveal whether it has biological and chemical weapons.
Meanwhile, Blix praised the recent British-Franco-German initiative to make Iran give up its nuclear program. He said European foreign ministers Straw, Villepin and Fischer "did the right thing."
The 73-year old Swede also called on the United States and Russia to further reduce their nuclear arms capabilities. He said it was gratifying to see their nuclear arms depots decrease after the end of the cold war. And yet, they still possessed enough weapons of mass destruction to blow up the whole planet many times over. It isn't conducive to making others, who don't have any nuclear weapons at all, feel safer, he said.
Blix retired as chief UN inspector last summer. He now heads a Stockholm-based commission on preventing the spread and build-up of weapons of mass destruction. He is among the 173 nominees for the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize. But observers say it is unlikely he will be chosen, partly because it was so long ago that he was head of the UN weapons inspection team.