One month after admitting it worked on biological weapons, Iraq turned over a hefty report containing “very important information” about the program, the chief U.N. weapons inspector for Iraq said Sunday.
However, Rolf Ekeus told reporters in Baghdad that his specialists “need some time before verifying and judging” the 530-page report to determine whether it meets conditions set by the U.N. Security Council for the lifting of sanctions imposed after Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
Iraq is hoping for an easing of the crippling oil and trade embargo when it comes up for review at the United Nations next month.
Ekeus, who heads the U.N. Special Commission on Iraq, received what the Iraqis termed “a full, final and complete declaration” of the biological program upon his arrival Friday in Baghdad.
“It will take time to analyze,” he said, adding that “it contains very important information which will be helpful to sort out the remaining problems under the cease-fire resolutions.”
The Swedish arms control expert returned later Sunday to Bahrain, the regional headquarters of the U.N. inspectors.
The state-run Iraqi News Agency, monitored in Cyprus, quoted Ekeus as saying the information he received “is the best until now.” However, it said Ekeus was not sure if he would be able to declare Iraq free of weapons of mass destruction by September, as the Security Council has demanded.
Under pressure to account for 17 tons of missing germ growth material, Iraqi officials admitted last month that large quantities of biological warfare agents were produced from 1989 to 1990 and were stored in concentrated form.
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein also has made a series of surprise gestures recently apparently aimed at winning international approval and easing concerns about Iraq’s human rights record.
The Iraqi president released two Americans imprisoned for crossing the border into Iraq, commuted sentences for army deserters and pardoned all political prisoners.
On Saturday, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tarik Aziz insisted to Ekeus that Iraq has fulfilled all the conditions for lifting of the embargo, which has wrecked the Iraqi economy.
A failure by the Security Council to end it soon “will be viewed by the Iraqi people and leadership as a stand that can only be explained as being tendentious and hostile, and seeking to inflict further harm on the Iraqi people,” Aziz said, according to the Iraqi news agency.
Despite Baghdad’s protests, the United States, which exercises veto power at the Security Council, has indicated it is not ready to consider lifting the embargo.
Washington’s ambassador to the United Nations, Madeleine Albright, told Congress last week that Iraq had produced enough biological warfare agents to kill everyone on Earth but has yet to show how it destroyed those agents.