U.S. gains early access to Iraqi arms declaration

Iraq's mammoth arms declaration covers its nuclear program up until the 1991 Persian Gulf War, the names of companies and foreign governments that assisted its former chemical weapons program and details of Baghdad's efforts to build biological weapons.

The details from the report were listed in the declaration's nine-page table of contents, which was made public today and quickly distributed by a U.S. official.

Washington has obtained the U.N. Security Council's copy of the complete 12,000-page declaration, which has not been made public, and plans to share it only with Russia, Britain, France and China.

In exchange for getting their own copies, the five Security Council powers will provide weapons inspectors with experts and intelligence data that could help hasten a determination of whether Saddam Hussein is trying to rearm, diplomats told The Associated Press. Other council members will only get an edited copy with sensitive material censored, an arrangement that has angered some members.

The table of contents is broken down into four sections: nuclear, chemical, biological and ballistic missile programs.

Some 2,100 pages are devoted to Iraq's current nuclear program and the program it maintained until the Gulf War -- as well as information on sites and companies involved in both.

Lt. Gen. Amer al-Saadi, a senior adviser to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, said Sunday that Iraq's pre-1991 nuclear program may have been close to building an atomic bomb, but he said Baghdad no longer has such ambitions.

In the declaration, Iraq asserts that it no longer has weapons of mass destruction or the means to deliver them.

The chemical declaration is several thousand pages and begins with a chronology of Iraq's "former chemical weapons program." Sections dealing with the chemical program include: Research and development activities, the production of chemical agents, relations with companies and a terminated radiation bomb project.

The biological declaration is much shorter that the previous two and includes information on military institutions connected with the former biological weapons program, activities at the foot-and-mouth facility and a list of supporting documents.

The ballistic missile declaration is the briefest of the four sections and totals some 1,200 pages on the chronology of Iraq's ballistic missile program. Under U.N. Security Council resolutions, Iraq is banned from missiles with a range greater than 94 miles.

The complete report arrived at U.N. headquarters in New York on Sunday. One copy is in the hands of weapons inspectors who have been combing through it for details and tips. The other copy was taken to Washington on Monday by U.S. officials who planned to duplicate the material and distribute it to Moscow, London, Paris and Beijing.

The deal for the distribution, reached late Sunday, outraged Syria and Mexico, because it reversed an agreement among council members Friday that would have let inspectors remove sensitive material from the 12,000 page document before showing the report to any council members.

Hans Blix, the chief U.N. weapons inspector, had pushed for the Friday agreement in the hopes of keeping some of the dossier's material, including possible recipes for bomb-making material, from getting into the wrong hands.

The United States had initially accepted the argument Friday but then changed its mind over the weekend, holding consultations between capitals.

Eventually U.S. officials instructed Colombian Ambassador Alfonso Valdivieso, the current Security Council president, to hand over the complete copy of the declaration, which to the astonishment of many in the U.N. halls, he did.

The 10 non-permanent members, including Syria, Mexico and others, will see only a censored version of the document once weapons inspectors have gone through the report and removed sensitive material -- including possible instructions on bomb-making.

Meanwhile, U.N. Secretary- General Kofi Annan said it would take some time to review the declaration and he called on Washington and others to be patient with the inspectors.

"The inspectors will have to review them, analyze them and report to the council, and I think that's going to take a while."

In Washington, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer withheld judgment on the massive documentation and said the United States wants to study the material "thoroughly, completely and fully and thoughtfully."

The International Atomic Energy Agency said only an exhaustive analysis, backed up by ongoing arms inspections in Iraq, can determine if the document is truthful, spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said.

In Iraq, U.N. arms inspectors made a return visit Monday to Iraq's huge al-Tuwaitha nuclear complex, where scientists in the 1980s worked to produce the fissionable material for nuclear bombs.

The real test will be the document's transparency, which could determine whether Iraq will face another war with the United States and its allies over U.S. insistence that Iraq has banned weapons.

Under the terms of Security Council Resolution 1441, passed on Nov. 8, false statements or omissions in the declaration, coupled with a failure by Iraq to comply with inspections, "shall constitute a further material breach of Iraq's obligations."

Such a breach could be enough for Washington to argue that military action is the only way to force Iraq to comply.

Under successive resolutions, passed since the Gulf War ousted Saddam's troops from neighboring Kuwait, the Security Council has demanded that Iraq disarm and comply with a weapons inspections regime. Only after inspectors declare Iraq in compliance can 12 years of crippling sanctions, imposed after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, be suspended.

Iraq's declaration, in Arabic and English with an 80-page summary, was contained in at least a dozen bound volumes accompanied by computer disks.

The declaration covers the 1990s U.N. weapons inspection regime in Iraq, when many arms and much production equipment were destroyed, and details "dual-use" industries that can serve both civilian and military purposes.

Inspectors said they expect much of the declaration to include repetitious material that was submitted years ago.