U.N. Unit Monitoring Iraq Is Short of Funds: Warns Bagdad Still Hides Weapons

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The U.N. commission charged with monitoring the destruction of Iraq's chemical and biological weapons is almost broke and has not received any commitments for funding next year, its director said yesterday.

The U.N. Special Commission on Iraq (Unscom) has only about $1.5 million left for the year - almost all of which is already earmarked for staff transportation costs - and does not know where it will get the estimated $35 million it needs to operate next year, said Rolf Ekeus, the Swedish diplomat who has headed the agency since its creation after the Persian Gulf war of 1991.

"We have asked for support from the international community, and we hope that they will not let us down," Mr. Ekeus told reporters after a briefing yesterday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington.

The United States has not committed any money to Unscom, despite the Clinton administration's lead role in the international effort to keep Iraq isolated until it fully discloses the extent of its weapons programs.

Other countries such as Japan and Germany may contribute to Unscom next year but have so far not offered any firm commitments, Mr. Ekeus said yesterday.

The funding crisis comes at a critical time, Mr. Ekeus and others noted yesterday, because Iraq continues to conceal its weapons capability from Unscom inspectors. Experts at yesterday's briefing offered numerous examples of how Iraq has consistently lied to or kept information from Unscom in an effort to protect its weapons of mass destruction.

"Iraq has engaged is a systematic policy of hiding weapons and information about its weapons," Mr. Ekeus said. "Our scientists have been unable to verify Iraqi claims that these weapons have been destroyed. …