Time of truth for UN's Butler
South News May 26

Sydney: The UN chief weapons inspector for Iraq on Tuesday said UNSCOM would lay its cards on the table showing Baghdad still had weapons of mass destruction despite world scepticism about the agency's accusations.

Richard Butler, in Australia for a brief visit, said he intended to use U2 spyplane photographs, declassified intelligence material and previously secret evidence from his own United Nations Special Commission to lay out exactly which weapons of mass destruction were left in Iraq.

The UN's chief weapons inspector's goal is to try to convince an increasingly sceptical Security Council that Iraq has still not provided persuasive evidence that it is hiding dangerous amounts of chemical and biological weapons and long-range missiles.

But Iraq claims that UNSCOM estimates of what it held before the Gulf War are inflated. They say that much of its arsenal was destroyed during the war or unilaterally scrapped before inspections began seven years ago and that UNSCOM is just a tool in an anti-Iraq American design. Butler's closeness to the US has had its costs with many former colleagues in the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs slamming his perceived arrogance and bias.

Butler will appear before the council June 3 to explain what his team believes are major gaps in Baghdad's accounting for weapons and materials banned after the 1991 Gulf War. The data, he hopes will the convince the council, especially the Russians, French and Chinese, that the gaps are significant and must be explained before the sanctions imposed on Iraq are lifted.

Yet Butler, said he's about to embark on a risky strategy to end the long running dispute over Iraq's weapons of destruction. There was a "classic risk'' inherent in his strategy he said to in that Iraq might reveal only those weapons the United Nations asked it to declare and no others that U.N. inspectors did not know about.

"As the verifying agency, if we say what we know in full we always run the risk that they will simply match that and say it's all over and we'll never know if there was any more or not," Butler told a foreign correspondents' lunch in Sydney. The United Nations weapons inspections team chief is in Australia for a week returns to New York Thursday.

"I propose to take it next week and show to the Security Council and to Iraq what we know about what they haven't told us and what needs to be done so that we can bring to account Iraq's missile, chemical and biological weapons," Butler said. UNSCOM has long maintained that the failure to find illegal weapons does not mean such arms are not hidden somewhere. That argument is increasingly difficult to sustain within the 15-member council.

Iraqi officials have said that some 1.5 million Iraqis, many of them children, have died as a result of severe shortages of medicine and food since the sanctions were imposed .A growing number of members, led by Russia, China and France, are nearly as anxious to lift the sanctions and resume trade with Iraq as with accounting for every last illegal weapon.

Iraq's foreign minister, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, and Lt. Gen. Amer al-Saadi are due in New York next week to argue Baghdad's case that it has complied with U.N. orders to scrap those weapons so that sanctions should be ended.

Related: Open letter to Richard Butler Oct 26 1997