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[casi] Blix- outlook for US in Iraq

Bleak outlook for U.S. in Iraq says Blix

By Patrick McLoughlin

STOCKHOLM, Nov 21 (Reuters) - "There's a hatred against the United States
and you have 130,000 American troops sitting there as a big target," said
Hans Blix as he leaned forward to make his point about the future of Iraq
and its military occupation.

"The borders, although guarded, are not watertight. Weapons of mass
destruction may not be there but conventional weapons are and the U.S. does
not have the capacity to guard it all," Blix added. "The outlook is bad."

His time over as chief U.N. weapons inspector, he has a bone to pick with
those who took the United States and Britain to war with Iraq on claims that
Baghdad could wage quick and terrible destruction.

"This was the basis upon which the war was sold and justified and today I
think no one would say Iraq constituted a danger in the Spring of 2003,"
said the 75-year-old Swede.

Sitting in the Stockholm flat where he has lived for more than 30 years
between assignments, Blix now watches Iraq and the Middle East from the
sidelines. But he gives notice that far from disappearing into history as a
footnote, his voice will continue to be heard.

First there is a book he is writing, to be called "Weapons of Mass
Destruction", which he says will exhume issues and facts that some might
prefer to remain buried.

Then there is a new commission against weapons of mass destruction -- paid
for by Sweden and supported by international think-tanks -- he is putting
together and heading. He says both projects will bear fruit quickly, but his
70,000 word book should appear first and set the record straight about Iraq,
at least from his perspective.


A deal has been signed with publisher Bloomsbury and the manuscript should
be finished by the end of the year.

"I was one of those who saw so much of what was happening and I have an
obligation to write about that," Blix said. "I have a lot of clarifications.
There will be lots of interesting things, yes."

The Hans Blix you meet at the door of his nondescript 1960s downtown
apartment is not the Hans Blix who confidently walked the world stage last
year. Every day he was caught in a vortex of lights and television cameras,
as the world watched and weighed for nuance his every word on whether his
inspectors had found in Iraq horrible weapons -- as it lurched towards war.

Then, he was the master diplomat who parried the increasingly strident and
irreconcilable expectations of the Americans and Iraqis in a calm and
judicial manner.

Now, he comes to the front door in cardigan and carpet slippers, comfortable
in a home that is large but not lavish. His beloved carpets, from the Middle
East to Russia, collected for years as he travelled the world, line the
floors and walls.

The bookshelves contain well-thumbed copies of Hali magazine, the bible for
carpet collectors. The picture is of cosy domesticity.

Despite appearances, the former Swedish foreign minister who for 16 years
headed the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency,
remains full of questions and nagging doubts.

He says the politicians, in their haste to go to war, did not lie outright
to their people, but they distorted facts, ignored evidence and stretched
the truth.

"As a citizen I am indignant at what happened," he said.

He believes the political fortunes of U.S. President George W. Bush and
British Prime Minister Tony Blair are now tethered to what happens in Iraq.

"It depends on how it goes. If it continues -- more people are killed ---
people will ask what got them there in the first place and why they never
found weapons of mass destruction," he said.

His tone is measured. The man with a double doctorate from Uppsala and
Cambridge universities is known for his cool analysis.

But neither is he afraid to take issue with Washington, repeating his view
that despite repeated searches by the Americans, every day makes him more
convinced that weapons of mass destruction will never be found in Iraq.

He also says the Americans are wrong to assume that Iran used a civilian
energy programme to develop a nuclear bomb -- another point of tension with
several European countries.

Blix says his new international commission on weapons of mass destruction,
announced by Sweden in July, is close to being formed and among the
participants will be a leading but as yet unidentified American. The
commission will report its findings in 2005 -- but don't expect Blix to be
silent in the meantime.

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