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[casi] FW: Blix to Step Down After U.S. Snub

Blix to Step Down After U.S. Snub

By EDITH M. LEDERER and DAFNA LINZER, Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS - His inspectors are becoming valuable
commodities for the United States but Hans Blix isn't.
The chief U.N. inspector, blamed by Washington for
hurting its drive for international support in the
run-up to the war, will be stepping down at the end of

U.S. officials say his departure could make it easier
for the Bush administration to include some of the
world's top arms experts in their hunt for Iraqi

At least three members of Blix's staff  two experts
in biological weapons and one who specializes in
Iraq's missile programs  have been approached by
special U.S. military units who will oversee Iraq's

It's a sign of recognition that the inspectors are
well-trained and their expertise is essential. But the
Americans have not made any overtures to their boss.

"We don't believe he was fair in his reports, not to
us and not on Iraq's cooperation," said one senior
U.S. official.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Friday,
Blix said he resented the administration's portrayal
of his work.

"At some points, I think they went too far," he said.

And he is disappointed that after three years of
preparation, his teams only got 3 1/2 months in Iraq.

"A few more months would have been useful," he said.

Blix was not Washington's pick for the job of top
inspector in Iraq in 1999.

But the United States went along with his
recommendation as a compromise candidate whose
credentials as an international lawyer and member of
the international arms control community satisfied
Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the Security Council.

U.N. inspectors returned to Iraq for the first time in
four years in late November, soon after the Security
Council strengthened inspections and gave Baghdad a
final opportunity to disarm peacefully or face serious

Blix said he is certain President Bush "hoped that
this path to disarmament would be successful" although
many in his administration were skeptical of the

The chief inspector's first report in early December
was a tough assessment of Iraq's cooperation and a
condemnation of a weapons declaration the Iraqis
submitted to inspectors. The United States welcomed

But in January, Blix reported that Iraq had decided to
cooperate on the "process" of inspections, providing
good access, though it still needed to provide
substantive evidence about its weapons programs. By
February, he reported that Iraq was trying to
cooperate more on substance, but still wasn't
providing much that was new.

France, Russia and Germany believed that Iraq could be
disarmed peacefully, and argued that these reports
showed the inspections were working and should

Sometime in late January or early February, Blix said
the U.S. government "gave up on inspections" and
stepped up military preparations.

US officials began to criticize inconsistencies in
Blix's reports and quietly questioned his motives.

"There were complaints saying in January you were very
harsh, and in February you were mild. Well, I looked
out the window here and one day it's raining and the
next day it's sunshine. How can you describe it in the
same terms?" Blix asked. "Certainly not."

Blix's last major report was devastating for U.S.
efforts to convince the council that Iraq was a
serious threat that needed to be disarmed by force.

The upbeat account not only dealt with Iraq's
last-ditch efforts to cooperate with inspectors and
destroy missiles they weren't supposed to be
producing, but also cast serious doubt on U.S.
intelligence that claimed otherwise.

France, Russia and others used the findings to counter
Washington's claims and block U.N. support for the

The Americans were outraged.

"We gave him 70 sites to visit and he only went to
seven," said one angry U.S. official, who spoke on
condition of anonymity.

Blix said he couldn't remember how many sites he was
given, but noted that intelligence from all countries
including the United States resulted in "a relatively
meager" amount of new information.

The chief inspector was hurt by criticism that he was
in the anti-war camp.

"I was in nobody's pocket," he said. "Maybe somebody
wished I be in a pocket, but I was not."

Blix said the United States and Britain, trying to win
support for a U.N. resolution backing a war, went "too
far" in trying to claim there was "evidence that we
allegedly had suppressed."

"I think it was unfair, and I do resent that to some
extent," he said.

Blix, a former Swedish foreign minister who led the
International Atomic Energy Agency from 1981-1997, had
said he would like to retire before his 75th birthday
in June. But he had also hinted he could stay, saying
he wouldn't abandon his responsibilities or turn down
a request by the council that now seems unlikely.

"As things look now, certainly I will be very happy to
go home in June," he said.

Inspections were suspended last week because of the
war. Annan has said he expects their mission to resume
once the hostilities cease, but there is no guarantee
that will happen.

There is disagreement in Washington about what role,
if any, inspectors should play in disarming Iraq.

Members of the U.N. teams are considered the only
weapons experts in the world specifically trained in
disarmament, and they have intimate knowledge of Iraq.
But many are skeptical of U.S. claims that Saddam has
stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons.

U.S. disarmament specialists are in Kuwait preparing
to be equipped with ground-penetrating radar, sensors
and sample-taking apparatus similar to that used by
U.N. inspectors. Working with several former
inspectors, they will probably go to many of the same
locations the inspectors visited.

Intelligence experts will question Iraqis involved in
weapons programs while experts comb sites and analyze
samples in the field using mobile labs.

Meanwhile, Blix will prepare his next report to the
council, which is due June 1. His staffers are pouring
over documents and analysis collected from the Iraqis
since November.

But he said he's looking forward to spending more time
in Sweden with his wife of 41 years and doing research
and writing.

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