Israel quietly helped U.N. arms inspectors uncover how Iraq concealed its weapons of mass destruction over the past four years, the former chief U.N. arms inspector said in an interview published on Monday.

Scott Ritter, who headed the U.N. Special Commission (UNSCOM) unit dealing with Iraqi arms concealment, told the English-language newspaper Ha'aretz in an interview that he had visited Israel many times from 1994 to 1998.He said he resigned from his post last month in protest at what he believed to be the Clinton administration's inaction in carrying out the Iraqi arms inspections.

"I can honestly say that if it weren't for Israel, the special commission would not have been able to carry out the anti-concealment effort," Ritter told Ha'aretz.

He said the idea of seeking Israeli help with the inspections in 1994 came after UNSCOM received inadequate assistance from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and other U.S. government offices.