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United Nations actions regarding Iraq

United Nations actions regarding Iraq include, notably, actions associated with the Gulf War in 1991 and UN Security Council Resolution 1441 in late 2002-2003.

Actions associated with Resolution 1441

Following the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 1441, on November 18, 2002 UN Weapons inspectors returned to Iraq for the first time in four years. Whether Iraq actually has weapons of mass destruction or not was being investigated by Hans Blix, head of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission and nuclear-weapons inspector Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the IAEA until the beginning of the U.S., the U.K. and two other countries invaded Iraq (see 2003 Iraq war).

In early December 2002, Iraq filed a 12,000-page weapons declaration with the UN. After reviewing the document, U.N. weapons inspectors, the U.S., France, Britain and other countries felt that this declaration failed to account for all of Iraq's chemical and biological agents. On December 19 Secretary of State Colin Powell stated that Iraq was in material breach of the Security Council resolution.

Blix has complained that the United States and the United Kingdom have not presented him with the evidence which they claim to possess regarding Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction. [1]

On January 16, 2003 U.N. inspectors discovered 11 empty 122 mm chemical warheads ? components not previously declared by Iraq. Iraq dismissed the warheads as old weapons that had been packed away and forgotten. After performing tests on the warheads, U.N. inspectors believe that they were new. While the warheads are evidence of an Iraqi weapons program, they may not amount to a "smoking gun", according to U.S. officials, unless some sort of chemical agent is also detected. U.N. inspectors believe there to still be large quantities of weapons materials that are still unaccounted for. U.N. inspectors also searched the homes of several Iraqi scientists.

On January 27, 2003, UN inspectors reported that Iraq had cooperated on a practical level with monitors, but had not demonstrated a "genuine acceptance" of the need to disarm. Inspector Hans Blix said that after the empty chemical warheads were found on the 16th, Iraq produced papers documenting the destruction of many other similar warheads, which had not been disclosed before. This still left thousands of warheads unaccounted for however. Inspectors also reported the discovery of over 3,000 pages of weapons program documents in the home of an Iraqi citizen, suggesting an attempt to "hide" them from inspectors and apparently contradicting Iraq's earlier claim that it had no further documents to provide. In addition, by the 28th, a total of 16 Iraqi scientists had refused to be interviewed by inspectors. The United States reports that sources have told them that Saddam has ordered the death of any scientist that speaks with inspectors in private. Iraq insists that they are not putting pressure on the scientists.

On February 5 2003, the United States Secretary of State Colin Powell appeared before the UN to "prove" the urgency to engage a war with Iraq. Although the presentation has failed to change the fundamental position of the UN Security Council -- mainly France, Germany, Russia and China, Powell succeeded to harden the overall tone of the United Nations towards disarmament in Iraq. Powell also said that Iraq harbours a terrorist network headed by al-Qaeda operative Abu Musab Zarqawi (in a small region controlled by Ansar al-Islam). Powell also showed photos of what he said was a poison and explosives training camp in north-east Iraq, operated by the group. However, when this camp was visited by a British journalist two days later, all that was found was a few dilapidated buildings and no evidence or signs of any terrorist activity, chemical or explosives. Powell alleged that these training camps had been opperating with help from Iraqi agents. Powell also said that Iraqis visited Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan and provided training to al-Qaeda members. According to US intelligence, Iraq maintains an active connection to the terrorist organization. While Colin Powell's statement to the UN may have been accepted as 'proof' by many in the USA, this is not the case in Europe, where there is still widespread scepticism of any links between Iraq and al Qaeda. It is notable that even the UK government's intelligence services do not believe there is any link.

In March 2003, the U.S., the U.K. and Spain presented a draft resolution to the Security Council which set a ten day deadline for Iraq to fully comply with previous resolutions on disarmament. The resolution split the UN and led to serious diplomatic rifts, with the U.S. and the U.K. coming under sustained criticism from France, Russia and Germany. The resolution was eventually withdrawn, with the sponsors contending that it had been sabotaged by France's threat to veto the new resolution "whatever the circumstances", while critics (and France itself) argued that the French position had been intentionally misrepresented and that the majority of the Security Council had opposed the proposed resolution.

As George W. Bush gave Hussein an ultimatum to leave power, the U.N. pulled out all the inspectors from Iraq. Days later the U.S. invasion of Iraq began.

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