By Colum Lynch
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 30, 2007
UNITED NATIONS, June 29 -- The U.N. Security Council voted 14 to 0 Friday to immediately shut down the U.N. weapons-inspection unit for Iraq, drawing to a close 16 years of international scrutiny of Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs.
The action ended more than four years of political deadlock between the United States and Russia over the fate of the inspection effort. Russia abstained, citing U.S. and British refusal to permit the inspectors to provide a final report confirming Iraq's disarmament.
The resolution -- sponsored by the United States and Britain -- offers no formal judgment on the status of Iraq's weapons program. Instead, it refers to the findings of a CIA inspection team that concluded in 2004 that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
"These efforts have demonstrated that the current government of Iraq does not possess weapons of mass destruction or delivery systems," Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said after the vote. Khalilzad, the former U.S. ambassador to Iraq, had made a personal pledge to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki before leaving Baghdad to shutter the U.N. weapons programs.
Iraq's U.N. ambassador, Hamid al-Bayati, hailed the decision, saying an "appalling chapter in Iraq's modern history" has been closed. He said he welcomed the council's decision to return about $63 million in Iraqi oil proceeds -- which have been used to fund the inspections program -- to Iraq.
The resolution will formally end the work of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, which replaced the U.N. Special Commission in 1999. The International Atomic Energy Agency will continue to monitor Iraq's nuclear material sites to ensure its compliance with the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The resolution calls on Iraq to sign international treaties designed to contain the use of chemical and nuclear weapons. It also requests U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to ensure that the two commissions' massive archives -- which contains sensitive intelligence communications and instructions for making scores of deadly weapons -- will be kept secure.
The U.N. chief weapons inspector, Demetrius Perricos, said his agency shares the U.S. belief that the there is no evidence Iraq ever resumed its weapons-of-mass-destruction program after the 1991 Persian Gulf War. But he said that a "residue of uncertainty" hangs over Iraq's past weapons program, raising concerns that "non-state actors may seek to acquire toxic agents or their chemical precursors in small quantities."
He cited the unknown fate of 7,900 dual-use items previously monitored by U.N. inspectors, and concerns about the burial of bulk quantities of liquid anthrax at a site in Baghdad. "This could represent a reservoir from which this strain of anthrax could be isolated and cultured in the future," he said.
Perricos praised the hundreds of inspectors from the U.N. commissions for making "Iraq a success story in international verification." He said that he hoped the expertise contained in the agency would "not be dispersed and lost for the U.N. in the future."