Blix Felt U.S. Intimidating Him Before Iraq War

08/29/03: (Reuters) VIENNA - Former chief U.N. arms inspector Hans Blix felt Washington was intimidating him to produce reports that would justify military action in the run-up to the Iraq war, the head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog said on Friday.

In an interview on BBC television's Hardtalk, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Mohamed ElBaradei also said he believed Iraq had not tried to revive its clandestine nuclear weapons program as the United States and Britain insist.

Blix and ElBaradei led the hunt for Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction for nearly four months late last year and early this year. The IAEA hunted for nuclear weapons, while Blix's UNMOVIC monitoring agency looked for chemical, biological and ballistic arms.

Asked if the administration of President Bush had tried to intimidate him to produce reports support their case for a war on Iraq, ElBaradei said it had not.

"I think there were probably more efforts to intimidate Hans Blix, because there were more serious concerns about chemical and biological (weapons)," he said.

"Hans complained a lot about the media campaign, some of the administration's efforts to put pressure on him."

The Bush administration sharply criticized Blix before the war for refusing to back U.S. and British assertions about Iraq's weapons programs in his reports to the U.N. Security Council.

U.N. weapons inspectors never found the massive stockpiles of banned weapons that Britain and the U.S. claimed President Saddam Hussein possessed. Neither have the U.S. and British forces who took over the hunt for his arsenal after the war.

ElBaradei said a lesson should be learned about the dangers of cutting short weapons inspections.

"If anything comes out from the war in Iraq, it's that inspections take time and that we should not jump to conclusions, because jumping to conclusions on such a vital issue that determines war and peace is very reckless and irresponsible in my opinion," he said.

ElBaradei added that he would like to see the situation in Iraq "coming to a closure soon and put an end to that tragic situation."

Regarding U.S. and British insistence that Saddam had tried to revive his secret atomic weapons program, which the IAEA says it destroyed in the 1990s, ElBaradei was certain this allegation is unfounded.

"I would be very surprised if we were to discover that there was a nuclear weapons program restarted in Iraq," he said.

Blix, who headed the IAEA for 16 years until 1997, retired as the director of UNMOVIC at the end of June.

Copyright 2003 Reuters Ltd


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