Blix Assumes Charge of UNMOVIC; Security Council Debates Oil-for-Food

By Rice, Matthew | Arms Control Today, April 2000 | Go to article overview

Blix Assumes Charge of UNMOVIC; Security Council Debates Oil-for-Food


Rice, Matthew, Arms Control Today


WITH NO END in sight to Iraq's opposition to renewed arms inspections, Hans Blix, executive chairman of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), assumed his post March 1 and began work on an organizational plan for the fledgling organization. At a press conference the same day, Blix offered some details about the organization's potential makeup and his approach to re-establishing the inspections regime.

According to Blix, UNMOVIC will not adopt a less aggressive monitoring posture at the expense of onsite inspections. "The Security Council confirmed the right of UNMOVIC to unrestricted access to sites and to information and, indeed, I intend to exercise that," he said. The role of surprise inspections may be smaller, however. "I am also determined that our role is not to humiliate the Iraqis," Blix said.

Blix maintained that none of the weapons files are closed, but noted that while chemical and biological weapons issues have the most discrepancies to be accounted for, "total clarification" would be impossible. "There will always be a small residue of uncertainty...in a vast country there is no way you can be sure," he said.

Blix also clarified his position on hiring personnel from UNMOVIC's predecessor, the UN Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM), for his own staff. The likelihood that some UNSCOM inspectors would be included on the UNMOVIC team was high, he said, citing the necessity of retaining UNSCOM's institutional memory. But the positions will be open to outside competition and will require complete allegiance to UNMOVIC and the United Nations, eventually eliminating UNSCOM's practice of "borrowing" experts from member governments.

While the decision on the composition of the staff must await Blix's submission of an organizational plan, several faces were added to the UNMOVIC roster with the March 8 announcement of the organization's college of commissioners. (See box.) The 17 commissioners (16 appointees plus Blix as chairman) will review UNMOVIC reports before they are submitted to the Security Council. In a shift from the composition of the UNSCOM college of commissioners, who were primarily experts on technical aspects of the verification process, the new body also includes several career diplomats. …

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