Saturday 21 December 2002

Weapons inspectors turn fire on Britain and US

George Bush was under intense pressure yesterday to give UN weapons inspectors intelligence data that the US says proves Iraq is lying when it claims to have given up its weapons of mass destruction.

Hours before Mr Bush was to meet the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, and senior Russian and European representatives, Hans Blix, the chief weapons inspector, delivered a stinging attack on the US and Britain, accusing them of failing to co-operate with his team.

"If the UK and the US are convinced and they say they have evidence, then one would expect they would be able to tell us where is this stuff," Mr Blix said. Asked if he was getting enough co-operation from Western intelligence agencies, he said: "Not yet. We get some, but we don't get all we need."

Mr Blix spoke as inspections moved into a new, more intense phase. The Security Council has asked his team of weapons inspectors to provide a detailed assessment of Iraq's arms declaration on 9 January. Two days ago, Washington declared that omissions in the 12,000-page inventory submitted by Baghdad constituted a "material breach" of its obligations to the UN.

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