UN rejects Ritter attack

 South News Aug 27

United Nations: The United Nations on Thursday rejected accusations by a US weapons inspector Scott Ritter that the UN chief had taken the side of Iraq against the disarmament monitors admit allegations that the 37-year-old former  Marine was himself under investigation.

In a statement, UN spokesman Fred Eckhard denounced a "gross mischaracterisation" by Scott Ritter, who resigned on Wednesday in a policy dispute, of a proposal by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan for a comprehensive review of eight-year old Iraqi sanctions.

The former American Marine resigned Wednesday in a strongly-worded letter to UNSCOM head Richard Butler, citing lack of UN and US support for the Iraqi disarmament mission

In his resignation letter to top arms inspector Richard Butler, Ritter alleged that the Secretary-General acted at the behest of Iraq when he proposed a comprehensive review of the disarmament effort in Iraq. Mr. Ritter claimed that the Secretary-General's proposal was equivalent to investigating the investigators. Spokesman Eckhard said that it was simply untrue and unfair to characterize the Secretary- General's proposal in those terms.

The Spokesman rejected the suggestion by Mr. Ritter that the Secretary-General had acted at the behest of Iraq. He pointed out that the Secretary-General was a "consensus builder by nature" and does not act at the behest of any individual Member State.

Mr. Eckhard stressed that the Secretary-General's proposal for a comprehensive review of the disarmament effort in Iraq was not to distract from the Council's disarmament objectives, "but to strengthen the consensus in favour of them." Eckhard said: "that is not a 'distraction' from disarmament, but a means to achieve it."

Ritter also accused Annan, and his special representative for Iraq Prakash Shah, of becoming "a sounding board for Iraqi grievances, real or imagined." Eckhard, responding to that charge, said that "listening to the complaints of member states is part of his (Annan's) job description."

UN officials were said not to have been surprised by Ritter's decision to resign at a time when CBS television claimed the controversial weapons inspector is under investigation by the FBI for allegedly passing classified documents on Iraq to Israel, a claim that Ritter has denied.

Ritter said that he was forced to resign because the UN Security Council, the United States and Annan were caveing in to Iraq, which he said was continuing to conceal weaponry from the UN inspectors

In Baghdad a spokesman from Iraq's culture and information ministry said."Ritter's relationship with Mossad (Israeli intelligence service) was unmasked" when he "voiced his anger and frustration with the Security Council for not taking more severe measures against Iraq".

It was Ritter who, during the summer of 1997, made every effort to escalate the crisis with Iraq by trying to search a presidential site,"The Iraqi spokesman said. "Ritter is behind the concealment theories, elaborated it seems by the American and British intelligence services so that UNSCOM's work cannot end."

""It was he who spearheaded the greatest American lie that Iraq was concealing banned weapons in presidential sites, which almost degenerated into a war against Iraq last year," the spokesman said.