BAGHDAD - War with Iraq, with biological or chemical agents possibly unleashed, will be a human calamity, the U.N. refugee chief warned -- exactly a month before a final arms inspectors' report might trigger a conflict.
"Believe me, it will be a disaster from a humanitarian perspective," Ruud Lubbers, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said in a BBC interview.
He raised the specter that bacteriological or chemical weapons -- for evidence of which UN inspectors are currently scouring Iraq -- could be used in a conflict.
The potential use of biological or chemical agents in a war with Iraq will be a human calamity, Ruud Lubbers, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) warned December 27, 2002 -- exactly a month before a final arms inspectors' report might trigger a conflict. 'Believe me, it will be a disaster from a humanitarian perspective,' Lubbers said in a BBC interview on Friday. Lubbers is pictured at news conference in Islamabad in this April 19, 2002 file photo. Photo by Mian Khursheed/Reuters
He urged the international community to prevent war, and not to fight unless Iraqi President Saddam Hussein could not be disarmed if he still has such weapons, which Saddam denies.
"Only, only, when Saddam Hussein does not comply with both the inspections and the consequences of the inspections...then there can be reason for a military intervention," said Lubbers.
Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency and a UN mission toured the Modern Company for Brewery and other sites on Friday as the mission to scour Iraq for traces of atomic, biological or chemical weapons entered its second month.
Iraq said on Thursday the experts had found no evidence of banned weapons. The inspectors are now starting to interview scientists who worked on now abandoned weapons programs.
The 100-plus inspectors -- whose predecessors left the country in 1998 after Baghdad halted cooperation -- are due to issue their next report on January 9 and a final one on January 27, with speculation growing this could spark war.
A UN Security Council resolution last month gave Iraq a last chance to come clean on its weapons programs -- as required by resolutions stemming back to the 1991 Gulf War -- or face consequences, which is diplomatic speak for possible war.
America, still embroiled in Afghanistan and building up forces in the Gulf, faced a grave war of words on a new front as North Korea accused it of rushing into an "extremely dangerous confrontation" over the communist state's nuclear plans.
Keen to win over allies lukewarm about a possible war with Iraq, Washington sent two senior officials for talks in Turkey but the key NATO member said it wanted to see the results of the weapons inspectors' mission before promising any support.
"Turkey will not finalize its position until the UN Security Council's decision," said government leader Tayyip Erdogan.
"The report by the UN inspectors about weapons of mass destruction has not been submitted yet."
Iraq says the United States is planning to attack it regardless of the findings of the weapons inspectors.
Copyright 2002 Reuters Ltd