U.S.-Led Team of Arms Inspectors Leaves Iraq


As U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter and his disarmament team left Baghdad on Friday--after being blocked in their duties but vowing to return--Russia and France moved to step up their participation in the U.N. commission that oversees the inspection effort.

Paris nominated a high-level diplomat to act as a political advisor to chief inspector Richard Butler, and Russia proposed adding 60 more Russian inspectors as well as Russian-built spy planes to the program.

The moves were seen as an attempt to offset Iraq’s complaints that the commission--charged with dismantling Iraq’s nuclear, biological and chemical warfare capacity and its long-range missile program--is dominated by hostile officials from the United States and Britain.


French Ambassador Alain Dejammet said in an interview that diversifying the disarmament commission could sweep away that objection and might speed the inspection process. He added that Iraq was not being unreasonable to demand that the inspection teams include more people from other countries.

Butler, an Australian, and his American deputy, Charles Duelfer, officially welcomed the prospect of more help. But they repeated that inspectors are selected based on their qualifications, not their nationality, and contended that the main problem facing the commission is Iraq’s periodic refusal to give inspectors unfettered access to sites under inspection.

“We’re open to any suggestion for making our work more effective and more credible,” Duelfer told reporters here before leaving New York to join Butler in Baghdad. But “our problem is not driven by a lack of manpower. Our problem is driven by lack of information and lack of access.”


Privately, some officials at the U.N. fear that the French and Russians, who are cultivating closer relations with the government of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, may be politicizing the commission and that the expanded number of inspectors might increase leaks of confidential information to the Iraqis. Duelfer shrugged off the prospect of divided loyalties when questioned by reporters Thursday. “We assume when people are invited to the special commission they will work for the special commission,” he said.

He also repeated assertions that the decision to withdraw Ritter and his 28-member inspection team did not constitute an Iraqi victory. Ritter’s inspectors had been scheduled to leave at the end of the week, and Duelfer said there was no point in extending their stay when it was apparent that they would not be permitted to complete their work. The group was seeking evidence that Iraq used prisoners for germ warfare experiments.

Iraq blocked the inspection team, claiming Ritter was an American spy and that there were too many American and British inspectors. The U.N. denies that Ritter is a spy and says 15 of the 28 inspectors were Americans or Britons.


As he left Baghdad for a flight to Bahrain on Friday, Ritter, who is based at U.N. headquarters in New York, told reporters: “We will be back. This inspection team had important arms control tasks assigned to it, and these are still valid.”

Duelfer echoed that here. “We fully intend to do these inspections, and we fully intend to continue to use Scott Ritter. He is very expert in this area.”


Meanwhile, on a stopover in Paris on his way to meetings with Iraqi officials in Baghdad, Butler met with French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine. It was announced that Eric Fornier, a French diplomat who is experienced in disarmament, would come to New York as Butler’s political advisor.

Duelfer and U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard were vague about Fornier’s duties. Duelfer also said it was unclear how many of the 60 experts offered by Russia would be used by the disarmament commission and whether the surveillance aircraft offered by the Russians would be useful. He said the Russian planes could not replace the American U-2 that Iraq has objected to because they do not have the same high-altitude capabilities.

There was immediate speculation Thursday that the French and Russians are seeking to rein in the outspoken Butler, who has become a regular on U.S. television news programs and has outraged Iraqi officials with his accusations that they have failed to fully cooperate with inspectors.

Under the cease-fire that ended the 1991 Persian Gulf War, the U.N. Security Council cannot lift an oil sales embargo against Iraq until the disarmament commission agrees that Baghdad no longer has the means to develop weapons of mass destruction.


Although the United States says it seeks a diplomatic solution to the dispute with Iraq, it maintains a formidable military force in the region. That includes two aircraft carriers; about 20 other warships, some equipped with cruise missiles; and more than 300 combat aircraft.

Britain on Friday announced that the aircraft carrier Invincible and an auxiliary ship would sail to the Persian Gulf to beef up allied forces in the area. “I hope it will be seen in Baghdad as a clear sign of our resolve,” said British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook. “No option is ruled out.”