Blix Assumes Charge of UNMOVIC; Security Council Debates Oil-for-Food

Matthew Rice

WITH NO END in sight to Iraq's opposition to renewed arms inspections, Hans Blix, executive chairman of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), assumed his post March 1 and began work on an organizational plan for the fledgling organization. At a press conference the same day, Blix offered some details about the organization's potential makeup and his approach to re-establishing the inspections regime.

According to Blix, UNMOVIC will not adopt a less aggressive monitoring posture at the expense of onsite inspections. "The Security Council confirmed the right of UNMOVIC to unrestricted access to sites and to information and, indeed, I intend to exercise that," he said. The role of surprise inspections may be smaller, however. "I am also determined that our role is not to humiliate the Iraqis," Blix said.

Blix maintained that none of the weapons files are closed, but noted that while chemical and biological weapons issues have the most discrepancies to be accounted for, "total clarification" would be impossible. "There will always be a small residue of uncertainty…in a vast country there is no way you can be sure," he said.

Blix also clarified his position on hiring personnel from UNMOVIC's predecessor, the UN Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM), for his own staff. The likelihood that some UNSCOM inspectors would be included on the UNMOVIC team was high, he said, citing the necessity of retaining UNSCOM's institutional memory. But the positions will be open to outside competition and will require complete allegiance to UNMOVIC and the United Nations, eventually eliminating UNSCOM's practice of "borrowing" experts from member governments.

While the decision on the composition of the staff must await Blix's submission of an organizational plan, several faces were added to the UNMOVIC roster with the March 8 announcement of the organization's college of commissioners. (See listing.) The 17 commissioners (16 appointees plus Blix as chairman) will review UNMOVIC reports before they are submitted to the Security Council. In a shift from the composition of the UNSCOM college of commissioners, who were primarily experts on technical aspects of the verification process, the new body also includes several career diplomats. Blix emphasized that the college was an advisory body and that he would make all final decisions.

Looming over UNMOVIC's preparatory activities in New York is the question of when, if ever, Iraq will accept Security Council Resolution 1284, which established UNMOVIC and offers sanctions relief in exchange for Iraqi cooperation on arms inspections. (See ACT, December 1999.) During the press conference, Blix refused to speculate under what conditions, if any, Iraq would cooperate, stating simply that it was not UNMOVIC's role to "tempt" the Iraqis into allowing inspectors to start their work. Sanctions relief alone should be enough of an inducement, he said.

Other experts expressed less confidence in the wait-and-see approach. Asked whether UNMOVIC was likely to begin inspections in the near future, Charles Dulfer, former deputy chairman of UNSCOM, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on March 22, "Frankly no…. Iraq got a clear message that there is no strong consensus in the council on this…[and] if they don't believe the council is serious, they're not going to comply."

The clearest evidence of rifts remaining in the Security Council continues to be the disagreement over sanctions and the humanitarian situation in Iraq. On March 24, the council engaged in a rancorous debate on the efficacy of the oil-for-food program, the poor state of Iraq's oil production infrastructure, and the role of the UN Sanctions Committee, which reviews requests from Iraq for dual-use items.

While the debate did not break significant new ground in either strengthening or weakening the regime the U.S. representative, James Cunningham, asked the council not to ignore continuing U.S. efforts to improve the responsiveness of the oil-for-food program despite Iraqi intransigence and oil smuggling. Responding to charges that the United States places undue holds on dual-use contracts, Cunningham said, "In reviewing oil-for-food contracts, the United States has acted, and will continue to act, strictly and objectively in accordance with the arms control policies defined by the council…. Our holds are not politically motivated, nor are they driven by calculations of commercial prospect or gain."

UNMOVIC College of Commisioners

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Hans BLIX, Sweden, executive chairman, UNMOVIC

Gunterio HEINEKEN, Argentina, technical adviser, Applied Chemistry Department, Technical and Scientific Research Institute of the Armed Forces

Roque MONTELEONE NETO, Brazil, technical adviser on the Biological Weapons Convention

Ronald CLEMINSON, Canada, former UNSCOM commissioner

Cheikh SYLLA, Senegal, ambassador to Burkina Faso

CONG Guang, China, deputy director, Political Division, Department of International Organizations and Conferences, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Takanori KAZUHARA, Japan, former ambassador

Malmi Marjatta RAUTIO, Finland, former UNSCOM


Thérèse DELPECH, France, director for strategic affairs, Atomic Energy Commission

Reinhard BÖHM, Germany, chair of environmental and animal hygeine, University of Hohenheim

Annaswamy Narayana PRASAD, India, former director, Bhabha Atomic Research Center

Adigun Ade ABIODUN, Nigeria, senior special assistant to the president on space, science, and technology

Yuriy FEDOTOV, Russia, director, International Organizations Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Kostyantyn GRYSHCHENKO, Ukraine, member, UN Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters; ambassador to the United States

Robert EINHORN, United States, assistant secretary for nonproliferation, Department of State

Hannelore HOPPE, Germany, senior political affairs officer, UN Department for Disarmament Affairs

Paul SCHULTE, United Kingdom, director, Proliferation and Arms Control, Ministry of Defense

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