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[casi] Permanent " UNMOVIC " in Vienna?
AP: Britain, France Secretly Plan Agency

Associated Press Writer

November 25, 2003, 8:04 PM EST

UNITED NATIONS -- Britain and France want to turn the U.N. inspection force
that worked in Iraq before the war into a permanent agency authorized to
investigate biological weapons and missile programs worldwide, The
Associated Press has learned.

The United States opposes the idea, diplomats and U.N. officials said,
putting Washington at odds with its wartime ally Britain and in the same
camp as Pakistan and Syria -- Security Council members whose suspect weapons
programs have caused international concern.

For the Bush administration, support for the secret initiative could prove
embarrassing after it criticized U.N. inspectors for failing to find the
same illicit Iraqi weapons the U.S. search hasn't come up with yet.

But a formal rejection could also be awkward since the initiative is based
on a recognition that one of Washington's biggest fears -- that weapons of
mass destruction could get into the wrong hands -- is a prime concern for
the United Nations as well.

For most of the council and the European Union, saving the agency known as
UNMOVIC and returning it to Iraq is an acknowledgment that inspections work.

Britain's position has always been to get the inspectors back into Iraq. Not
so for the United States.

"The coalition has taken on the responsibility for inspections and the
search" for weapons in Iraq, U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte has said.
Noting that the Security Council is bound by a resolution to discuss
UNMOVIC's future regarding Iraq, Negroponte said this summer: "We haven't
ruled anything in or ruled anything out at this particular time."

American officials said the United States won't formally discuss UNMOVIC
until after the U.S. weapons search in Iraq is complete. That could leave
the U.N. agency in limbo until June, when David Kay, the CIA's man leading
the hunt, is expected to finish his work.

Members of UNMOVIC, the outgrowth of an inspections process created after
the 1991 Gulf War, are considered the only weapons experts specifically
trained in biological weapons and missile disarmament. They also
investigated Iraq's chemical weapons programs, but international chemical
inspections are done by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical
Weapons, based at The Hague, Netherlands.

Britain and France, with help from Russia, Canada and the European Union,
are working on a way to turn UNMOVIC into an international inspection team
for biological weapons and missiles, diplomats and U.N. officials said on
condition of anonymity.

The plan would require a new Security Council resolution and Washington's
support for approval. Diplomats said the matter is sensitive for the Bush
administration now but they hope Washington will come around.

"We think the Iraq experience has helped Americans recognize the potential
utility of having someone other than themselves do this kind of work," said
one senior Western diplomat. "The costs are high, the work is hard and even
Congress has said the U.N. inspectors had some better intelligence than the
CIA did."

The biggest challenge would be financing. UNMOVIC's operations were funded
by Iraqi oil money. The agency had budgeted $80 million for one year of
inspections. The Bush administration asked Congress in October for $600
million to cover up to eight more months of weapons searches.

Details of the initiative were discussed during an Oct. 23 meeting of the
U.N.'s disarmament committee and are loosely based on a June declaration by
the European Union on weapons of mass destruction.

Carlo Trezza, the Italian representative who addressed the committee on
behalf of the EU, said Europe backed the idea of inspections, "especially
making use of" UNMOVIC.

Elisabet Borsiin Bonnier of Sweden said events of the past year had
demonstrated the need for better global monitoring and she called on UNMOVIC
to step up to the task for missiles and biological weapons.

"Its legitimacy and expertise would make it an ideal player to counter the
threat of states refusing to comply with international disarmament and
nonproliferation treaties," she said.

She suggested UNMOVIC be made a permanent section of the United Nations
Secretariat, or an organ of the Security Council.

According to a transcript of the meeting, Robert L. Luaces, the U.S.
representative, didn't engage in the discussion about UNMOVIC.

Some countries, including Britain, have suggested a possible name change and
relocating UNMOVIC -- which stands for U.N. Monitoring, Verification and
Inspection Commission -- from New York to Vienna, where U.N. nuclear
inspectors are based.

The United States blocked UNMOVIC and the International Atomic Energy Agency
from taking part in the U.S.-led weapons hunt in Iraq and has refused to
share information with U.N. inspectors despite Security Council resolutions,
written by the Bush administration, ordering it to do so.

At the start of the war, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he expected
UNMOVIC to return to Iraq, saying the agency still had a mandate to
complete. Security Council members, particularly Russia and France,
expressed reservations over a U.S.-led disarmament effort, saying it was up
to UNMOVIC to determine whether Iraq had weapons or had been disarmed.

Pakistan and Syria, in opposing the idea, argue that UNMOVIC was created to
deal with Iraq and that it should now be disbanded.

The United States accuses Syria of pursuing the development and production
of biological and chemical weapons.

Pakistan went nuclear in 1998 when it conducted an atomic test. Its
scientists and researchers have long been suspected of aiding other
countries such as North Korea and Iran in developing atomic weapons.

In the early 1990s, U.N. inspectors uncovered hidden nuclear and biological
weapons programs in Iraq but found virtually nothing new after 1996. Two
years later, Baghdad insisted it no longer had any weapons, accused the
United States of using inspections to spy on the country and Saddam Hussein
banned inspectors from continuing their working.

In September 2002, after President Bush called on the United Nations to get
tough with Iraq, Saddam agree to let the inspectors return. They worked for
nearly four months but found no evidence of any of the weapons the Bush
administration said it went to war to destroy.

Copyright  2003, The Associated Press

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