The New York Times
June 19, 2003

Getting Ready to Bow Out, Hans Blix Speaks His Mind on How U.S. Doubted Him


UNITED NATIONS, June 18 _ Hans Blix, the retiring chief weapons inspector for the United Nations, has questioned in an interview why American and British forces expected to find large stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons in Iraq when it was clear that his inspectors had failed to report any such discovery.

In an interview on Tuesday in his 31st-floor offices at the United Nations, he said:

"What surprises me, what amazes me, is that it seems the military people were expecting to stumble on large quantities of gas, chemical weapons and biological weapons. I don't see how they could have come to such an attitude if they had, at any time, studied the reports" of present and former United Nations inspectors.

"Is the United Nations on a different planet?" he added. "Are reports from here totally unread south of the Hudson?"

Mr. Blix and his team have had little contact with the inspection teams currently in Iraq, and Bush administration officials have made clear that they have no desire to see Mr. Blix's team return any time soon.

During the hour-long interview, Mr. Blix showed no particular rancor toward the administration, reiterating previous statements that his relations with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and the national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, were respectful.

That cannot be said of his attitude toward two of his most virulent critics _ David Kay, a former subordinate when Mr. Blix headed the International Atomic Energy Agency, and Per Ahlmark, a former Swedish deputy prime minister. In a recent interview in the British newspaper The Guardian, Mr. Blix referred to them using an expletive. Mr. Kay has been chosen by the Bush administration to advise American inspection teams now in Iraq.

Although he avoided such language on Tuesday, Mr. Blix did say that thGetting Ready to Bow Out, Hans .ems ose two critics had "a personal vendetta" against him and had distorted his record of inspecting Iraq's nuclear facilities when he was director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency in the 1980's and 90's.

Discussing the failure of the atomic energy agency to unmask Iraq's nuclear ambitions in 1990, Mr. Ahlmark said in an article last November in The Washington Times: "Regardless of how this crisis develops from this point, the United Nations has neglected its duties by asking a wimp to lead the inspectors who are supposed to stand up to the brute of Baghdad."

In the interview on Tuesday, Mr. Blix said the characterizations of the agency's work were "totally unfair and a lot of fairy tales." He said he believed that such criticism had fed into Pentagon officials' skepticism about his work.

Later in the interview, Mr. Blix said that he was unsure if anything Saddam Hussein might have done, short of humbling himself before his people and the world on television, would have avoided the war.

Perhaps, he said, if the Iraqis had moved faster to provide a list of scientists said to have worked on the destruction of existing stocks of VX nerve gas and anthrax in 1991, interviews with these scientists may have accounted for the unconventional weapons that were never produced. "They gave us eventually a long list of people who were engaged in the destruction, even the transportation of it," he said.

But would the list, which the Iraqis provided on the eve of the war, have made a difference? "If we had clear evidence" of the stockpiles' destruction, Mr. Blix said, "that would have been impressive. But would it have been so unambiguous? That is doubtful."

The interview was one of a series of valedictory conversations now under way as Mr. Blix, who turns 75 on June 28, prepares to leave his job and return home to Sweden after three years as the executive chairman of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission.

Asked about the war's outcome, Mr. Blix said, "We all welcome the disappearance of one of the world's most horrible regimes."

He added: "The good impact is the freeing of the Iraqi people. The bad impact is people have died, and the destruction that was brought there. The good impact may be upon the peace negotiations" in the Middle East. "I don't know. It's too early to know."

He continued: "The negative impact is the anti-Americanism that is abroad in the Middle East. And the bad impact would be if it drags out and you have more people become guerrillas in Iraq. The bad impact, I think, is on the U.N. Security Council _ the U.S. further going away from the Security Council, saying this is a hopeless institution."

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