Though prepared to move forward, UN and IAEA weapons inspectors await the next round of UN-Iraq talks, which are not expected before April, the UN reports.
In early March, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan briefed the Security Council on his two days of talks in late February with a high-level Iraqi delegation. The Council was encouraged by the talks, Mr. Annan said, which the sides agreed would be resumed in April or May to focus on specific outstanding issues.
On 1 March, the Security Council received the latest quarterly report of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), headed by former IAEA Director General Hans Blix. Covering the period 1 December 2000 to 28 February 2001, the report states that the Commission is moving forward with preparatory work for field operations, despite Iraq's refusal to accept Security Council resolution 1284, adopted in December 1999. Dr. Blix emphasized in the report that Iraqi compliance with relevant Security Council resolutions is prerequisite to the implementation of a reinforced system of ongoing monitoring and verification plans. These plans have been formulated by UNMOVIC and the IAEA, whose responsibilities cover nuclear inspections in Iraq.
No inspections in Iraq under Security Council mandate have been conducted since late 1998. The IAEA has, however, conducted limited inspections over the past two years under a Safeguards agreement in force with Iraq. These inspections, in January 2000 and in January 2001, focused only on nuclear material under IAEA safeguards in Iraq. The inspections had the limited objective of verifying the safeguarded nuclear material, and were not intended, nor could they serve, as substitutes for the IAEA's verification activities in Iraq under relevant Security Council resolutions.
In mid-February, IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei informed the Security Council about the conclusion of the January 2001 safeguards inspection. The Director General said that the IAEA inspection team had carried out a physical inventory verification of the declared nuclear material remaining in Iraq under IAEA seal, and that the inspectors were able to verify the presence of the nuclear material subject to safeguards.
Postscript: The importance of on-site inspection in Iraq was the focus of a lecture by Dr. Blix at a recent UNMOVIC training course held in Vienna.