January 11, 2003
Iraq illegally imported missile engines and fuel and unsuccessfully tried to buy aluminium tubes, but it is unclear they were meant for banned weapons, UN arms inspectors has told the Security Council.
‘‘Inspections have confirmed the presence of a relatively large number of missile engines, some imported as late as 2002,’’ Chief UN inspector Hans Blix said in a statement to the Council.
In a three-hour closed briefing, Blix told the Council Iraq had also imported raw materials for the production of solid rocket fuel.
All military sales to Iraq are banned under Council resolutions adopted after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990. But the resolutions do not forbid Iraq to have conventional arms.
They do bar Iraq from possessing nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and missiles with a range of 150 km or more, and insist on the destruction of those already in Iraqi hands.
Blix said the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission had yet to determine whether the imported engines were intended for missiles in that category.
The IAEA director general, Mohammed El Baradei, told the Council Iraq had admitted trying to import high-strength aluminium tubes in 2001 and 2002 for a programme aimed at reverse engineering of 81-mm rockets.
The IAEA had carried out inspections, interviewed Iraqi scientists and taken samples to see whether the tubes had been diverted to making centrifuges needed to refine atomic fuels to military grade, El Baradei said. He added that the IAEA was still investigating the matter, but analysis so far indicated the tubes were intended for reverse engineering.
Blix said questions about the missile parts and the tubes were among those which Iraq had failed to answer and which continued to cast doubt on its claim to have complied with Council resolutions.
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