The chief U.N. arms inspector for Iraq, Richard Butler, warned Friday that he might soon test Baghdad's resolve to block further weapons inspections by sending his team to examine a new site.
"I do not rule this out," said Butler, the Australian diplomat who heads the U.N. Special Commission, or UNSCOM, which is charged with eliminating Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. "We have plenty of interesting information, and it is I who decide when to launch an inspection."The arms inspectors must certify that Iraq has destroyed its long-range missiles and chemical, biological and nuclear weapons before the Security Council will lift economic sanctions imposed in 1990 after Iraq invaded Kuwait, touching off the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
"If the Iraqis block us, then obviously we can't do the inspection," Butler continued in an interview, adding, "but I simply don't know what the Security Council would do then."
On Aug. 17, the Security Council called Iraq's refusal to allow the inspectors to visit new sites "totally unacceptable" and instructed the inspectors to continue their work. But it studiously avoided making any new threats against Iraq or saying what it would do if the inspectors were stopped.
In an article on the opinion page of The New York Times that day, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said the commission had planned "some particularly intrusive inspections" this month.