2 April 2003 The best chance of finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, if they exist, will emerge from interviews with scientists, the military and managers free from fear of retribution, top United Nations arms inspector Hans Blix said.
“The $64 billion question – that's what the war is costing at the moment I’m told, – that question is: are there any weapons of mass destruction?” Mr. Blix, Executive Chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), told UN Radio in an interview yesterday.
Noting that UNMOVIC never asserted there were such weapons and that the United Kingdom and United States have so far not found any, Mr. Blix said: “There is one factor that makes it less difficult for the US to find them than it was for us. And that is that as the country becomes liberated from the secret police, people may not fear speaking.”
Mr. Blix noted that when UNMOVIC tried to interview scientists or other personnel, there was also the risk that if they displeased the authorities they would be in trouble and therefore would be restrained. “Now if they don’t feel that there’s such risk, then they may speak more freely,” he said. “That might lead them, the Americans and British, to any secret storages, if there are any.”
Asked which weapons of mass destruction he feared most, Mr. Blix discounted anthrax, which he said was not a battlefield but a terror weapon. “I’d think that in terms of military use, probably mustard gas and sarin, these are the things that they used in the war with Iran that may come high up,” he said. “The VX is also a horrible nerve agent.”
But Mr. Blix indicated he did not believe Iraq would use such weapons if it has them. “My speculation would have been that Iraq has denied having these weapons and if they were to use them, then the whole world would say, ‘Well, they were liars,’ and the war, therefore, had more justification than a great number of people feel it has,” he said.
Mr. Blix said his inspectors were ready to go back to Iraq if they were so requested but he confirmed that he planned to leave his post at the end of June.