‘WE visited 30 sites and found no Weapons of Mass Destruction’ in Iraq, but the United States was on a ‘military high’ and decided to invade Iraq anyway, Hans Blix told the Chilcot Inquiry yesterday.

Blix said the Iraqis were very cooperative with his UNMOVIC ‘verification’ team before the invasion.

He said the UNMOVIC inspectors were able to go ‘anywhere’ in Iraq, but all they found were 70 minor missiles, which were then destroyed.

It had been established years before the invasion that Iraq – which was under UN sanctions – had ‘no nuclear weapons’.

‘The nuclear infrastructure was gone and we did not think they could resurrect a nuclear programme within a very long time,’ said Blix.

UNSCOM, the previous inspection team, had employed ‘huge groups of inspectors’ who flew into Iraq in ‘swarms’ and were briefed and debriefed at the US ‘Gateway’ base.

When it was exposed in the media that some UNSCOM inspectors came from US and UK intelligence and had a ‘dual function’, that ‘finished off’ UNSCOM, Blix added.

But Blix said that his team could find no evidence of a WMD programme in Iraq before the 2003 war.

UNSC Resolution 1284, passed on December 17, 1999, led to the creation of UNMOVIC and on September 16, 2002, Iraq offered to let UNMOVIC inspectors into the country.

In August 2002, the US National Security Council said ‘some sensational things’, said Blix.

‘It said the US can use force when it sees a growing threat.’

He said this turned the UN Charter completely upside down.

‘There are only two exceptions (to the Charter): self-defence against an armed attack or when there is a resolution from the UN Security Council,’ he said.

‘But the US said in the time of nuclear weapons and missiles that does not apply, you can’t wait, you have to do something before.

‘If you say you can take action before, then you have to rely on intelligence,’ said Blix.

He also said that before the September 11, 2001, attacks on the US, the US and Britain had already begun to take unilateral military action, giving the examples of the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 and the British military action in Sierra Leone, and Blix said that ‘I’m not convinced myself it was a legal action’ in Kosovo.

‘I think they were high on the military at the time – they knew they could do it,’ he told the inquiry.

Speaking about UN Security Council Resolution 1441, Blix said: ‘There was nothing in 1441 to say that we could not continue beyond March.

‘To me it was clear that a second resolution was required.

‘The resolution simply says that if something happens, if the inspectors report or states report that there is a violation, then the Council shall convene and they shall consider the situation.

‘If I sat on the other side of the Security Council, I would say that no, we will convene and reconsider – but it’s an absurdity that we should give a free hand to anyone in the Security Council. . . to unilaterally take military action!’

Blix emphasised that even if the UN Security Council had decided Iraq was in ‘further material breach’ of UN resolutions – ‘that did not automatically mean authorisation of armed force.

‘A (UN) decision to authorise was needed and this was absent from 1441.

‘When Condoleezza Rice said the US military action was simply upholding the authority of the Security Council, this strikes me as something totally absurd.

‘Here you were in March 2003 and they knew three permanent members, the French, the Chinese and the Russians were opposed to any armed action and they were aware they could not get a majority for a resolution that even implied the right to invade.

‘Threat is a different thing from actually taking action. The (UN) Charter prohibits you from using armed force.’