UN-Iraq: who gained most?: Ekeus hails power of persuasion

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The Independent Online
ROLF EKEUS, the Swedish diplomat in charge of the United Nations effort to eliminate Iraq's offensive war machine, arrives in Baghdad today, with a new team of weapons inspectors to check Iraq's Ministry of Agriculture.

The UN is looking for the paper trail that will shed light on Iraq's international arms procurement network, to ensure that it never again poses a threat to its neighbours. Iraq has refused to give any details of the international procurement network that it used to develop a sophisticated nuclear, chemical and long-range ballistic missile capability.

In Bahrain last night Mr Ekeus said he did not believe that inspection of the building, which was denied by Iraq for three weeks, would be in vain. 'I don't agree that we will find nothing. The material may have been moved out, but we have to make our observations and inspections. We are obliged to look on what could have been there . . . we may track down something,' he said. Mr Ekeus said the structure of the building itself might give clues to what had been concealed there.

The breakthrough with Iraq over the weekend is proof, according to Mr Ekeus, that international controls are a much more effective way of getting rid of offensive weapons than going to war. Before coming to New York he headed arms reduction talks in Vienna and played a prominent part in drafting the proposed chemical weapons treaty.

Asked whether a military strike against Iraq was still necessary, he said: 'I think, with all respect, admiration for the military forces, they did not succeed to destroy any weapons fundamentally.

'Hardly any missile, Scud missile, was destroyed through attacks . . . What has been destroyed is through the peaceful means of inspection. Mobile launchers, large amounts of chemical weapons were not destroyed through bombing, nothing of the research activities, in the nuclear area were really destroyed.

'I would like to say that arms control has demonstrated that it is the way to destroy weapons, and not through bombing and attacks,' he said.

Mr Ekeus, 57, whose soft-spoken and courtly manner belies toughness, has seen his reputation soar after he resolved the latest crisis, by granting the Iraqi leadership the possibility of climbing down without loss of face.

In a press conference on Sunday, Mr Ekeus conceded that the threat of air strikes was useful in his talks with Iraq. 'I'm afraid I have to say that it helped.'

Hachim Biermann, a German weapons expert, leads the new team, which includes a Swede, a Russian, a Finn and another German. Two American inspectors will remain outside the building.

Mr Ekeus won wide praise yesterday for not giving in on Iraq's objective of having the main government buildings declared off limits on grounds of sovereignty and national security. The UN Security Council ceasefire resolutions supersede Iraqi sovereignty and, in theory, Mr Ekeus and his team could search Saddam Hussein's private office.