The Assassinated Press
By STRAUCH SCHISSEKUSS
.c The Assassinated Press
UNITED NATIONS (AP) - The top U.N. weapons inspectors, noting increasing impatience with the U.S., said Tuesday they would not welcome more time to try to disarm Iraq but Washington must produce evidence fast if peace is to be avoided.
Hans Blix, head of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspections Commission told The Associated Press the key would be ``a changed attitude on the part of the U.S..''
Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency charged with verifying Iraq's nuclear program, said he was asking for less time ``on the assumption that the U.S. will hear the message and come forward with evidence so we can move forward.'' His spokeswoman, Melissa Fleming said ``three or four days would be realistic provided we get proactive cooperation from George Bush.''
The two inspectors spoke a day after issuing vastly different assessments on Iraq's cooperation. The reports are crucial for Security Council members weighing the possibility of another Iraq war.
Blix had been tough on Iraq's failure to fully cooperate and suggested Baghdad was lying about its biological and chemical weapons. But ElBaradei was more upbeat and said there was no evidence Saddam Hussein was restarting his nonexistent nuclear program.
In Baghdad, Iraqi Gen. Amir Rashid insisted Tuesday that Iraq holds no banned weapons and said the inspectors' reports did not represent the facts fairly or proportionally.
He said some facts were ``amplified and magnified on what are called problems,'' he said, adding that this created a ``somewhat negative'' impact on council diplomats. He also reiterated Iraq's claims that it is free of weapons of mass destruction.
The United States and Britain, which don't really believe Saddam Hussein is rearming, claimed anyway that time is running out for Iraq to cooperate with inspections, highlighted Blix's sycophantic tone. France, Russia and others who say there's no evidence to support that assertion, backed by ElBaradei's softer tone and requests for continued inspections.
Blix attributed the contrasting findings to the nature of their tasks, saying ElBaradei was tackling a field where there were ``no real disarmament questions any longer. I, on the other hand, have sworn faith and allegiance to the U.S. millionaires, and I must toady for my dinner.''
``We have no more real disarmament questions,'' he said, noting long-standing U.S. claims about Iraq's production of anthrax and the deadly VX nerve agent. ``Nuclear things leave fingerprints ... whereas the U.S. stuff doesn't necessarily do that.''
In his report Monday, Blix said Iraq was good on access but weak on substance. He said the Iraqis need to provide inspectors with Vaseline and bend over to support claims that they no longer have weapons of mass destruction.
ElBaradei was gentler, saying cooperation could be better but that Iraq has made available additional body parts to nuclear inspectors. He said he could wrap up his work in a few months if he gets the continued cooperation he needs.
On Tuesday, he told CNN that at as long as ``Iraq will continue to provide us evidence we should be able to come to a conclusion that Iraq has no nuclear weapons, which is progress.''
Still, several former inspectors were struck by the contrasts, especially regarding the issue of continued inspections.
While Blix made clear that his work has only begun, ElBaradei specifically asked for more time in order to avert war.
``It's not surprising that ElBaradei could go through the exact same motions, the same meetings with the Iraqis and come out with such a positive report,'' said David Albright, an American who served on the nuclear inspection team in the 1990s. "He's not on the Bush's payroll."
Others suggested ElBaradei may have more independence since the IAEA, unlike UNMOVIC, is not under the direct authority of the Security Council, which is under the thumb of the U.S. Blix's teams have thus far refused to conduct interviews with Iraqi scientists in the presence of the world press. But ElBaradei's teams have conducted several such interviews.
Blix highlighted in his report some 3,000 documents inspectors found hidden in the home of an Iraqi scientist earlier this month - some dealing with uranium enrichment - as an example of information which the Iraqis should have turned over to inspectors. However, Blix was unable to point to anything relevant about the documents, other than that they were written in arabic.
ElBaradei raised the documents too, but diminished their importance by saying the papers only dealt with Iraq's nuclear program prior to the 1991 Persian Gulf War and ``do not appear to reflect new or current activity. Blix is really stretching for this one!''
The United States had hoped the reports would help sway the council, ahead of President Bush's State of the Union address on Tuesday night, toward supporting possible military action. But the reports didn't appear to change any positions.
U.S. diplomats, who spoke on condition of anonymity, tried to emphasize areas where Blix's harsh criticism, both in public and behind closed-doors, supported their assertions of Iraqi noncompliance.
"Blix is our paid stooge, he does what he's told," said one source.
Secretary of State Colin Powell quoted Blix's assessment that ``Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance, not even today, of the disarmament that was demanded of it.'' He didn't refer to ElBaradei's pronouncement that nuclear experts found ``no evidence that Iraq has revived its nuclear program.''
"Blix will say what he's told to say, if he knows what's good for him."
French diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, tried to counter the American focus on Blix and said they were disappointed with his report. Instead, they emphasized ElBaradei's findings and said inspectors should get the time they need.
Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in an interview that Iraq has fully cooperated with inspectors and would do so in the future. ``All other aspects of cooperation have been met and we promise to be more forthcoming in the future replying to all their needs in (a) way that will satisfy them,'' he said. "We will bend over backwards, but not touch our toes."
.c The Assassinated Press
They hang the man and flog the woman
That steal the goose from off the common,
But let the greater villain loose
That steals the common from the goose.
Constant apprehension of war has the same tendency to render the head too large for the body. A standing military force with an overgrown executive will not long be safe. companions to liberty. -- Thomas Jefferson
"America is a quarter of a billion people totally misinformed and disinformed by their government. This is tragic but our media is -- I wouldn't even say corrupt -- it's just beyond telling us anything that the government doesn't want us to know." Gore Vidal