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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Banishing Hans Blix Would Be Big Mistake

Having won a military victory in Iraq without the support of the United Nations, the U.S. administration now seems determined to search for Baghdad's unconventional weapons without help from Hans Blix and his team of international inspectors. That is too bad. The hunt for these weapons would be aided by the presence of independent experts, and the credibility of any discoveries would be much enhanced if they were confirmed by the UN.

Blix said Tuesday that his arms control specialists could return to Iraq in two weeks and work cooperatively with Americans now in the field. As he spoke, the White House made plain that it opposed further UN involvement in disarming Iraq.

America's military victory in Iraq has transformed the problem of discovering and dismantling any prohibited Iraqi weapons. The concealment efforts that long thwarted investigators are over. So is any immediate danger of Iraq using biological or chemical arms. But the central question of whether Iraq had active unconventional weapons programs still remains. None have yet been found by U.S. or British troops. This is no small matter, given Washington's emphasis on Iraq's arms as the primary reason for going to war.

The White House dislikes Blix for his even-handed reports to the Security Council last winter. Although he repeatedly pointed to Iraq's failure to provide the full cooperation required of it, he never produced the irrefutable evidence of Iraq's cheating that the administration wanted.

Now Washington is learning how hard it is to come up with such evidence without active cooperation from Iraqi scientists. Washington's anger is misplaced. Its quarrel was with France, Russia and Germany, not UN inspectors. Encouragingly, Paris has now softened its differences with Washington by proposing an early suspension of sanctions against Iraq.

Blix, an international civil servant, organized a capable inspections program in the face of Iraqi obstruction and U.S. sniping. It was never his job to provide grist for Washington's diplomacy or to decide between war and peace. He should not become a barrier to bringing back UN inspectors, especially since he is retiring in June.

Yet just when his experts would be free to work unimpeded, they are being rebuffed by Washington, which wrongly believes that a U.S.-run weapons search can be as credible as a UN effort. Blix and his successors may not dance to Washington's tune, but that is precisely why their word on these matters is so valuable.

This comment appeared as an editorial in The New York Times.