Transcript of the Press Conference of Hans Blix
on the WMD Commission
Press Conference sponsored by the Swedish Mission
1 June 2006, UN Headquarters, New York
This morning Hans Blix has handed over a copy to the Secretary-General
the report on weapons of mass destruction by the independent Commission.
I give you the floor sir.
Thanks you very much, it’s a pleasure to be here again. And
the reason why I am here is that we have delivered a report called
Weapons of Terror in which you have presented some 60 recommendations
how the world community can tackle the problem posed by nuclear
weapons, biological weapons and weapons. There is also a full chapter
dealing with the UN and the Security Council. I handed it to the
Secretary-General a few moments ago.
The Commission was set up in 2003, when the then Swedish Foreign
Minister Anna Lindh who was tragically murdered in the autumn of
the same year who phoned me in my last month in New York and asked
me whether I would chair such a Commission of selected members and
I said yes, I’d be delighted to do that and we started the
selection process in the Autumn of 2003. I was given a completely
free hand. What she said was that the Swedish Government prepared
to pay a major part of the bill, and all the rest was paid by a
Canadian Foundation, the Jennifer Simons Foundation in Vancouver.
Its good to have these two inputs, a government interested in disarmament
and a foundation from the civic side of the world, because NGOS
are an important part of this
We had 14 members in the Commission; we were independent, and never
got even advice from the Swedish government or any other government.
They represent all the continent of the world, with the North American
continent represented by former Defence Secretary Bill Perry, Gareth
Evans from Australia, Mr. Arbatov from Russia. We had a number of
very strong and competent women, Alyson Bailes head of the Stockholm
Peace Research Institute and Patricia Lewis Director of UNIDIR,
Ambassador Sylla of Senegal and Ambassador Azambuja from South America.
It was not a political team. Some of the Commissions of the past,
some like the Palme was more selective on a political basis, we
were more people who are experts in the subject of disarmament.
The report is unanimous; there are no reservations on it.
The political background, of course, is the stagnation in field
of disarmament field. When Anna Lindh called me on June of 2003,
the invasion of Iraq had already taken place. There was no weapons
of mass destruction, that was confirmed. While the dismay was felt
on the US side about the insufficiency of international instruments
like the NPT to prevent proliferation in Iraq, in Libya, North Korea
and now maybe, maybe, Iran. That dismay was then followed, succeed,
by the military means that did not discover any WMD, there weren’t,
there weren’t any. I think that we still in that situation
that one discovers the limitations of that means and a possibility
then to go back, or continue with the cooperative approach, the
multilateral approach, strengthening the instruments that we have.
Looking at the resolutions like 1540, with which you are familiar,
or the Proliferation Security Initiative, the PSI, as supplements
not as replacements of the multilateral institutions
What are the proposals we are coming with? Well, there are 60 of
them. With a couple of exceptions, they are substantive. The two
that are not are procedural, one suggests another World Summit after
due, and long and proper preparations in order to make up for the
failure of last years Millennium + 5 Summit to even accept any lines
on disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control. And we are also
suggesting that the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, which the
main negotiating forum for disarmament which has been out of work,
without a work programme, for a good number of years, I think 8
years [it is 10], that they should no longer be stuck with the procedural
rules that come from the cold war that they must have consensus
to put an item on the agenda. They should be able to put items on
the agenda with a 2/3 majority. The General Assembly can have new
items on the agenda with a simple majority, and they do. But in
Geneva, we suggest at any rate at 2/3 majority should be possible
to bring up an item for discussion. Another matter is that you need
ratification to get states to accept. But even with the requirements
of consensus about the programme, we see that an important item
like the CTBT, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, that has not been
ratified by everybody.
Which brings me to the substantive items.
The CTBT is in my view the single most important item. This is
what the commission says too. If there were to be ratification by
governments of the CTBT, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, including
the United States where it was turned down in the Senate a number
of years ago, then this would change the atmosphere very considerably.
We don’t see any sign of that; the current administration
in the US is opposed to a ratification. But the reality is probably
that if the if US were to ratify, then China would, and if China
did, India would, if India did, Pakistan would, and if Pakistan
did, then Iran would; it would set in motion a good domino effect.
Now, apart from that the FMCT, the Fissile Material Cut off Treaty
is another vital instrument, the treaty that would prohibit the
production of fissile material for weapons purposes, of highly enriched
uranium or plutonium. You will remember that a few days ago the
US tabled a draft of such a treaty in Geneva, but it did not contain
any features about verification. The Commission discusses this matter
and says yes, we think the CD in Geneva should take up the FMCT
without any preconditions. Others would like to have as a precondition
that also stocks of highly enriched uranium and plutonium be included.
We say let them start the discussion without precondition and then
let them come to these thorny issues. It is the Commission’s
view that such a treaty can be verified. If it is not, it is hard
to understand why the world is undertaking verification of enrichment
in Japan and Brazil, which are parties to the NPT. So we think that
is another of the big issues.
We also discuss concrete cases, which you as media people will
be interested in. We devote a couple of pages to Iran and also a
number of pages to the North Korean issue. Also the question of
the fuel cycle, the enrichment in the future, if we have a nuclear
renaissance, a revival, people are worrying that this could mean
more enrichment plant, and there could be leakages of materials
for weapons purposes. We discuss ElBaradei proposals, and what Washington
has come out with in this regard. I think I shall stop there because
we don’t have many minutes, and I know you are more eager
to ask questions than to listen to lectures.
Question: inaudible. What you are saying is that
the CD should reach a resolution on the FMCT. Will the efforts of
member states come to any fruition?
Hans Blix: There is discussion in the First Committee
in the General Assembly about the issues of disarmament. Last year
the World Summit failed to adopt any lines on these subjects. I
think one can sense a frustration on both sides of the line in the
non-proliferation treaty. That treaty is after all a bargain, in
which the non-nuclear weapons states say that they will not acquire
weapons and the nuclear weapon states promise they will negotiate
towards disarmament. This was said very clearly in 1995, all the
non nuclear weapons states accepted an extension of the treaty to
be binding without any limitation, and they were given promises
then by the other side that they would work towards the CTBT and
a number of other things. It was confirmed in the year 2000, but
after the year 2000, we heard in the conference of 2005 that these
things are from another era. I think there was a feeling among the
non-nuclear weapon states that they were being tricked into having
giving a consensus and the other side had the feeling that the instrument
of the NPT did not really prevent Libya, Iraq, etc.
I think one has to come back to that fundamental bargain. It is
not only the NPT, but that is the most important document. There
is the question of the FMCT and reduction of nuclear weapons, between
the US and Russia. They have the SORT treaty under which there is
reduction, but it’s a very meager treaty without verification.
And one of the proposals of the Commission is that they should proceed
with that. Another proposal relates to the non-strategic weapons,
the tactical nuclear weapons that Bush the father agreed, or rather
in parallel declarations by Russia, the USSR in those days, and
the US in doing away with a great many of the tactical nuclear weapons.
The Commission proposes that they should continue that, that they
should make it into a treaty, and that they should withdraw tactical
nuclear weapons from any foreign soil. That would mean that in the
Western world that they would withdraw nuclear weapons from Western
Europe and into the US territory and from the Russian side, that
they should withdraw the weapons into central storage; they are
on the continent, they cannot take them elsewhere. These are some
of the things that we are proposing.
We think in the climate, not today, but maybe in the climate that
is coming here, that there may be more of an intention to negotiation.
I think you can see, if you take the case of North Korea, well,
they have been talking off and on in Beijing. It’s not in
the Security Council, there is not talk of Chapter 7 in the case
of North Korea, they are taking in Beijing. And in the case of Iran,
we can see how the Security Council was used as a sort of threat
against the Iranians, and they are still in the Council and there
is still talk about sanctions, but nevertheless there is more talk
now, and the Commission endorses that approach. And we also endorse
generally the view that you must look at the security of countries.
That the incentives to go for nuclear weapons is usually linked
to feelings that they have a need to defend themselves, it is a
perceived need, it may not be correct, but it’s a perceived
need, and you have to take away that incentive in order to get them
away from the weapons.
Edith Lederer, AP: A quick question on the title,
I think some people might look at a world without any WMD as sort
of pie in the sky and something that will never happen in any of
our lifetimes. I wonder if you could comment on that? I also wonder
if you can you elaborate on the last statement you made as far as
security assurances; the Chinese Ambassador said yesterday that
he believes that the Iranians should be offered security assurances
in this package of incentives. I wonder in light of what you have
just said whether this would be something your Commission would
Hans Blix: All right. On the title of the book,
we were convoked to become a Commission of Weapons of Mass Destruction.
That term, the very term, is not uncontroversial. For instance,
the Carnegie Endowment has abandoned using it at all. It is so strongly
used and minted that we couldn’t go away from it, but there
are vast differences between, if you ask how many countries are
there with weapons of mass destruction in the world, you come up
fairly high, maybe 30, I don’t know, but if you ask how many
nuclear weapons states there are, well then there is eight or possibly
nine. So there is a great many differences in these weapons, their
production, possession and use. However, there is a common feature,
they are all weapons of terror, they are designed to instill terror
and panic. They are not the only ones, a weapon like white phosphorus
or napalm, they are also weapons designed to cause terror, so is
gas, chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, they are weapons
of terror. So we chose that term as a title for it to get away from
the minted expression and to describe what they are. But the categories
are the three that we are dealing with. We also deal with outer
space, where feel there is at the present a race going on, it is
not simply that there is stagnation in the world on disarmament,
there is also a race going on in outer space weapons, there is one.
And also when it comes to nuclear weapons, there is a race going
on, with US discussions about new types nuclear weapons, and certainly
interest or activity in the same way in other countries.
Now, as for security assurance, we think that, and its not a novel
thought, that the first line of defence against the spread of nuclear
weapons is indeed to make states feel that they don’t need
them. You look at the European strategy against weapons of mass
destruction; that is precisely what they say. So the first barrier
against proliferation weapons of mass destruction lies in foreign
affairs, in foreign policy, not in the military. But when you talk
about negative security guarantees, as I think you alluded to, well
that is a different matter. That is an old concept, which came with
the NPT long ago that the countries that would commit themselves
to non-proliferation, they would also be given an assurance, that
if they do away with these weapons they will not be attacked by
nuclear weapons by anyone. And we think that is important.
Looking specifically at Iran, which I think you referred to. Yes,
we think, Iran is described as a threat, and their enrichment of
uranium is described as a threat to the whole world. The Commission
is also of the view that it would be desirable that Iran refrain
from going on with enrichment of uranium. But one must also try
if you want a solution for this, to look at this from the issue
from the side of the Iranians. They see 130,000 American soldiers
in Iraq, and they see American bases in Afghanistan and Pakistan
and more American military activities to the north of them. They
remember that Mossadegh who was elected Premier was ousted with
a subversive method from the outside. So it is not inconceivable
that some groups in Iran may feel that their security is being threatened
from the outside. That has to be taken into account when you search
for a solution. We make some specific proposals in this regard.
First of all the Commission sides with the idea that is desirable
to have a zone free of weapons of mass destruction, and in the Middle
East everyone agrees in the Middle East agrees with that and votes
for that, including Israel. But of course at the present time, the
situation being what it is, you are not going to have it, we have
to come much further in the settlement of the Middle East before
this can be a possibility. It is part of a settlement, but clearly
we are not there yet.
What we are suggesting is that maybe you could take or do something
as a step in advance of that. Looking at what has happened in North
Korea, you can get an idea. In the case of North and South Korea,
it’s clear that the two countries neither will have enrichment
or reprocessing, they will neither enrich uranium nor plutonium
in the future. What about seeking similar commitments from the states
in the Middle East, we are seeking a commitment from Iran that they
should not do any enrichment, but what about widening it, as you
do on the Korean Peninsula, and have a zone, an area, in which all
countries commit themselves not to produce enriched uranium and
not to produce plutonium. It would also mean Iran would refrain
from this, it would also mean that Israel would commit to not pregnate
more plutonium. They are assumed to have around 200 nuclear weapons.
They would commit themselves not to produce more plutonium for more
bombs. I don’t know whether they produce it, but they would
make that commitment. So would other countries be ask, Saudi Arabia,
Syria, Egypt etc, so that one would walk in the direction of a zone
free of weapons of mass destruction rather than away from it.
Question: You seem to say in your report the P5,
the nuclear countries that control the SC are busy issuing resolution
on the proliferation of WMD and right so, you also seem to be saying
they are not fulfilling their commitment to the NPT or its indefinite
extension in 1995. Hw can the world ensure disarmament of the nuclear
powers and make them to actually take their power seriously in accordance
with the NPT.
Hans Blix: Well I think they can only decide themselves
to move in this direction. We have now seen the war in Iraq. And
we have seen the crisis, the acute cases of Korea and of Iran. And
I think that while they are negotiating, we applaud what they are
doing in discussion with Korea and the way they are moving in the
case of Iran, I think they will see that it is difficult to be successful
in assuring non-proliferation unless they themselves participate
in it. It’s not we can force the US, or anybody else, but
they will see it themselves. It’s not only the US that has
the question. Also the UK will be deciding wither to have a continuation
of Trident or not, the French will be in the same situation. We
are pointing also to the others India, Pakistan, and Israel, they
all have to contribute to move away from nuclear weapons and the
weapons of mass destruction. We point to the Security Council as
an important instrument and we are applauding the movements in the
Council to make use of its authority. They did so already at a meeting
at Summit level in the 9190 when they declared proliferation as
a threat to international peace and security W have seen more recently
in resolution1540, that each country has a duty to enact legislation
under which they would criminalize individuals trying to acquire
weapons of mass destruction because the conventions prohibit the
states from doing it. The 1540 is therefore an extremely interesting
development in the UN, in which you can see that the Council is
beginning to enter into the field of legislation. They had executive
power, they had investigative power and now they have also been
moving somewhat into the legislative power. We say this is good.
But they should utilize their authority in accordance with the Charter.
Giving in orders to Members, under Article 25 of the UN Charter,
members are obliged to carry out the decision of the Security Council,
decisions are under Chapter 7 and such decision can be adopted when
the Council has first determined that there exists a threat to international
peace and security, or breaches of the peace, or acts of aggression.
This is a decision for the Council. If the situation does not correspond
to such a grave situation, then there is Chapter 6, about which
some of you may have heard but no one talks about it, that is addressed
to situations which are not yet a threat but which may develop into
a threat to international peace and security, there the Charter
only recommends and authorized diplomatic means and authorizes the
Council to go into diplomatic means
The authors of the Charter were not pacifists, nor is the Commission
and nor am I. At the same time the authors of the Charter were not
trigger-happy, they preferred peaceful means, and this is an important
thing to keep in mind when you examine what the Council should do.
Jim Wurst, GSI: You have alluded that this is
about politics, not science, not military. Are the Commissioners
going to capitals, Mr. Perry in DC, etc.
Hans Blix: We don’t have a war plan if that
is what you mean! We are first of all disseminating it, we are addressing
it to governments, we are making it available to you and the media,
the document today is available at the website of www.WMDCommision.org,
The press kit here is available to all of you which contains the
recommendations. For those who want hard copies, the Swedish Mission
will have a big supply. We hope to address the three communities,
the governmental, the people who deal with disarmament, think tanks
and the public. We will have a launch in the month of June but I
would imagine and I would hope that in the month of September when
the autumn that we can go more widely and a more wide discussion
of our proposals. That is the first step. I am going to Washington
Richard Roth CNN: Could Iran be trusted with what
it’s saying regarding its nuclear enrichment programme and
the way it is preceding now, there are shades of Iraq obviously.
What is the right course in your opinion for governments to take,
since you have been so heavily immersed in Iraq and proven right?
Can Iran be trusted, and what about the diplomatic pressure being
Hans Blix: I’m not sure that the professor
was right in the case of Iraq. We said we didn’t find WMD,
we didn’t exclude there couldn’t be some hidden. In
the case of Iran, the Commission does not asses what they’re
intention are. We can take note that the IAEA Board of Governors
has not asserted that Iran s violating the NPT. My personal assessment
is that there are different groups in Iran. In Iraq there was one
view. And I saw that when the Iranian President said Israel should
be wiped off the map, he was criticized in the Iranian Majles That
would never have happened in Iraq, if you had said such a thing
against a ruler, then you wouldn’t have existed very long.
There are different view in Iran, but they are all nationalists,
which we saw in India, there is a pride in nuclear accomplishment
and the latest idea on the western negotiating group, namely that
we would be ready to supply light water reactors for power purposes
is a good thing its a signal to Iran that the world and the west
and the US also is not against Iran going for nuclear power, they
are not against this nuclear science, and moving into that category,
what they are worried about is Iran going for enrichment because
that would increase the tension in the world. I am personally pro
nuclear power, as some of you may know. I think that it’s
very important from the point of view of reducing or restraining
the emissions of carbon dioxide. So from that point of view I think
its welcome that a country like Iran does. I don’t accept
the argument that Iran has oil why should they have to have nuclear.
No one said that to Mexico, no one said it to Iran during the Shah
when everyone were falling over themselves trying to sell Iran nuclear
power to Iran. That is a cheap argument.
The Iranians have some weaknesses in arguments, they say this is
a right to do it, but from saying that you have a right to do something,
it doesn’t necessarily follow that you must do it. You have
an option, you have aright, and if it is advantageous to stay away
from using the option for a while, then why do it, if it is dangerous,
you can stay away from it. They have 2 reactors, my own country
Sweden has 10 to not have it we are importing the fuel that we need,
its more economic. So I can’t see an economic reason behind
it. For self-reliance, yes, but Iran does not have such enormous
quantities of uranium in the ground, so for the long run, for nuclear
power they will need to import anyway. Today I think there is very
much a prestige and a question of pride that they should be able
to do this. I think that the other side negotiating with them would
do well to take that into account, also the questions of security.
The model of North Korea, the discussion about North Korea I think
is a good one, I think the US and others have moved in a healthy
direction of negotiation, and I can see a similar drift in the case
of Iran. But not the same, it’s a more loaded issue
Q. We seem to stress the comprehensiveness of
treaties in a world without weapons of mass destruction. Do you
see any difference in different between the people who hold weapons
of mass destruction. Do you see any difference between Iran, which
publicly says it wasn’t to erase one country off the face
of the earth, and say Sweden or even Israel for that matter? Do
you see any difference…
Hans Blix: I understand your question. I seem
to remember that the American Rifle Association says weapons are
not dangerous in themselves only the people who hold the weapons.
I can hear an echo of that in here about nuclear weapons, that nuclear
weapons are not dangerous per se, only who has them. Now, the Commission
does not accept that argument. We say governments and individuals
can be more or less reckless in this world, but the weapons per
se are dangerous anywhere, anytime. If you look at the US there
are lots of weapons on hair trigger alert, and the same allies to
Russia, they are dangerous anyway. If you simply look at the actors
who have them, actors change, governments change in different countries,
you may be satisfied and say that these are very responsible people
who won’t do anything, and the next day that government can
be overthrown. The view of the Commission is that these weapons
are dangerous in anyone’s hands, this doesn’t exclude
that some could be more reckless than others.
Al Jazeera: I would like to come back to the Iraqi
case and the Middle east, to which extent, the case of Iraq, the
war for WMD, they were not found, to which extent that specific
case, or the drive for it, influenced the conclusions of this report,
specifically. What is your message now, clearly from your Commission
to the Middle East, to the Islamic world, including Pakistan, India
and all the rest?
Hans Blix: There is a message about a zone free
of WMD, developed under that, the idea that I explained the commitment
to not go for fuel cycle activities. There are others, they relate
to the effectiveness of the non-proliferation instrument, and in
the field I was dealing with, namely verification. The IAEA I was
heading in the 1980s, did not understand what was going on, the
safeguards system set up in the 1970s simply insufficient, the world
did not accept such far reaching inspections as we had. After Iraq,
the possibility came, governments said, yes we need stronger means,
and in 1997 we got the AP, the year I left the IAEA. These is the
inspection basis upon which the IAEA have been operating with Iran,
although the Iranians have not been obliged to, they have not ratified,
they. The IAEA means today to states, which have accepted the AP,
they are much better. I wouldn’t say they are100 percent,
because you can hide computer programmes and so forth, but they
are much better. The other lesson from the Iraq case is that the
international inspections was more reliable than the national ones
were. We were objective, we were more critically thinking, and we
were quite professional, we couldn’t say in March 2003 that
there are no weapons, we didn’t say so, but we had criticism
of some of the evidence they brought forward, through 700 inspections
we didn’t find any, we went to 3 dozens of places given to
us by intelligence from different counties. Now if we had had a
few months more of inspection, and we would have been able to go
to all sites given by intelligence, and since there weren’t
any weapons of mass destruction, we would have been able to tell
them, there were not any at these sites. They should have drawn
the conclusion that there was something wrong with their sources.
The war might have been avoided. I don’t go into that particular
conclusion. What I draw is that for the future it is desirable to
rely on international inspection, professional international inspection,
and also to make use of national intelligence, I’m not against
it. But national intelligence must not remote control international
verification. It must give them tips because they have means which
the international inspection does not have, they have means for
listening, they have the satellites, they have the spies etc, the
international inspections does not operate on that, but international
inspections has the possibility of going into the sites, to go into
buildings, and to demand we want to see this and that. This is something
governments cannot use, so a combination is desirable. That’s
one principle lesson I draw from the case of Iraq.
Mark Turner? Q: One is a very technical question.
Is there a kind of nuclear technology that doesn’t rely on
enrichment that can produce nuclear power? I understood there was
some Canadian reactor, a Candu or something. Is this the way forward,
to have nuclear power without the threat of nuclear weapons? I have
to ask you again please, not as the Commission but as Mr. Blix,
we are given evidence by both sides, supposedly one a slam dunk
case that Iran is pursing nuclear weapons, and another that says
there is no such clarity. Can you give a clear answer? Do you believe
that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon or not?
Hans Blix: Well, you should have understood it
yourself. You know that if you can enrich to 4%, and have the technology
for that, then you can by a simply political decision say that,
well, use the centrifuges a number of times more and we’ll
get up to 90%. That’s what worrying the West. Whether the
Iranians have or had that intention or not, I don’t know.
The IAEA Board of Governors has not asserted that the Iranians had
that intention. But it may well be that some of them had, that’s
possible. Maybe that others of them said we just simply want to
have self-reliance because we cannot be assured we will get fuel
from the outside. So I cannot tell whether Iran, quote unquote,
Iran will do this. There are some people, there is the president,
you have another part of the government, you have public opinion.
What I think the western states are saying, look here, even if we
were to find a fatwa from Khomeini from the past, saying that it
is absolutely forbidden for this Islamic state to go for weapons,
well you may believe that, and it may have had its influence, but
he could change his mind in a couple of years time. Today they accepted
stringent inspection, they would accept to not enrich, well they
could change in a couple of years. The is as I understand it is
the western position that it is better that they do not do it at
all because then they would be two years further years away from
nuclear weapons if they were to change their minds.
Q. And is there a technology to make nuclear power
that does not require enriched uranium that we should all be pursuing?
Hans Blix: Any reprocessing leads to plutonium.
The reprocessing of spent fuel from light water reactors is not
very good for nuclear weapons but it has been shown that it can
be used; therefore all such plutonium is under safeguards. But you
have to reprocess the spent fuel to get material for the weapons.
Enriched uranium for fuel in reactors is at around 3-4 %, that cannot
be used in weapons, it has to be enriched even further, up to 80%.
The Canadian type reactors, the Candu reactors, they are not less
dangerous from the point of view of proliferation than any other.
The US has come forward with a proposal now recently, so-called
GNEP under which countries would abstain from enriching uranium
for their own fuel, and they wouldn’t buy fuel from states
producing it, they would lease, they would hire the fuel and then
when they had used it they would send back, a great relief for many
countries to not having to take care of the waste, they would send
it back, and then the countries that have enrichment, would also
have a process under which they would reprocess it, get rid of the
waste, and they would get a combination of enriched uranium, and
plutonium and neptunium and they would burn that in special types
of new reactors. That would take away some of the proliferation
risk. It’s a new idea; it will take 20 years at any rate before
we are there, so we have time to think about it.
Thank you very much.