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http://www.nytimes.com/library/world/global/070300un-ritter.html July 3, 2000 U.S. Monitor Now Argues Iraq Has Little to Hide By BARBARA CROSSETTE UNITED NATIONS, June 30 -- Scott Ritter, the former United Nations arms inspector who quit two years ago charging that Secretary General Kofi Annan and American officials were undercutting efforts to disarm Saddam Hussein, now says the Iraqis have no prohibited weapons of any importance left. Writing in the current issue of Arms Control Today, the journal of the independent Arms Control Association in Washington, Mr. Ritter says that the inspection team he served as an expert on concealment had effectively rid Iraq of dangerous weapons by 1997. And he argues that less aggressive monitoring of Iraq will now suffice and that inspectors on any new team should not pursue access to Iraqi presidential and security sites, which caused grave conflict with Iraq in the past. Mr. Ritter's article was written before American officials disclosed that Iraq was rebuilding and testing a short-range missile system, which is permitted under United Nations sanctions and does not appear to be immediately threatening. But those reports appear to support Mr. Ritter's thesis that while the missile tests may be legal, they are the kind of activity that must be monitored on the ground to know if the Iraqis are trying to go beyond what us permissible, or are loading the missiles with prohibited warheads. In an interview, Mr. Ritter said the purpose of his article was to suggest a way to overcome a deadlock with Iraq that has left the country without arms inspections for a year and half. He said the United States has little support abroad for either unseating President Hussein or continuing sanctions indefinitely. The Russians, Chinese and French will no longer follow America, he said, and Iraq is strengthened by the division among the Security Council's five permanent members. "I propose that maybe people should take another look at the disarmament issue in a way that's more satisfactory to all the parties," he said. Richard Butler, the former executive chairman of the United Nations Special Commission, or Unscom, which was responsible for monitoring Iraq, said in an interview that Mr. Ritter's assertions run directly counter to the reports Mr. Ritter submitted when he was in Iraq. Mr. Butler, who has just published a book on his tenure, "The Greatest Threat: Iraq, Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Growing Crisis in Global Security" (Public Affairs, 2000), said in a telephone interview that Mr. Ritter was interpreting data he helped collect in an entirely different way. "I didn't see one shred of evidence for these assertions," said Mr. Butler, an Australian arms control expert who is a diplomat in residence at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. "Ritter's claim that it was evident then that nothing of any importance remained is completely contrary to the advice that he repeatedly and robustly gave me when he was on the staff," he added. Several expert panels formed by the United Nations inspection commission as well as the Security Council also concluded that Iraq had not adequately disarmed, particularly in biological weapons. In the interview, however, Mr. Ritter said that if he was considered tough when he was an inspector, he was only carrying out a rigid mandate from the Security Council. The days when international inspectors could demand every scrap of Iraqi war matériel are over, he added, and it is now time to adopt more pragmatic goals if there is ever to be a resumption of inspections in Iraq. That meant looking at what Iraq may have left qualitatively, rather than quantitatively, he said. Mr. Ritter, who was routinely vilified by the Iraqis as the chief of a band of "cowboys" who wanted to kick down doors, met with Iraqi officials before writing the article. He said in the interview that he never took the Iraqi vilification personally. Iraqi officials themselves had told him that the sharp criticisms were "politics," he said. And he now adopts their long-held demand that the lifting of economic sanctions should be linked with the introduction of any new inspections. In his article, Mr. Ritter wrote that given the comprehensive nature of the former monitoring regime, "it was possible as early as 1997 to determine that, from a quantitative standpoint, Iraq had been disarmed." By 1997, Mr. Ritter's article says, "Iraq no longer possessed any meaningful quantities of chemical or biological agent, if it possessed any at all, and the industrial means to produce these agents had either been eliminated or were subject to stringent monitoring. The same was true of Iraq's nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities." In March 1998, however, a report after one of Mr. Ritter's visits pointed to "indisputable proof" that Iraq was still concealing weapons programs. In his article, Mr. Ritter uses the search for missing artillery shells apparently filled with mustard gas as an example of the wrong focus. "A few hundred 155 mm mustard shells have very little military value on the modern battlefield," he wrote. His former boss, Mr. Butler, said in an interview that such a critique of the inspections misses the point. "Unscom never asserted that these shells were themselves militarily significant," he said. "What was made clear in our reports to the Security Council was that so long as they remained unaccounted for, the veracity of Iraq's overall declarations could not be relied upon. "Our purpose in wanting those shells was to be able to bring to final account, to verify, Iraq's overall claims," he added. "Those shells represent a far wider question." ----------------------------------------------- FREE! The World's Best Email Address @email.com Reserve your name now at http://www.email.com -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq For removal from list, email email@example.com Full details of CASI's various lists can be found on the CASI website: http://welcome.to/casi