The furore over whether Iraq possessed unconventional weapons, a justification for the the US-led war, recently flared again after Kay said he believed there were no large stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons in Iraq.

Russian Ambassador Sergei Lavrov, at his annual meeting with the press, said Russian officials repeatedly maintained they did not have enough information. 

"We said that we don't have information which would prove that the WMD, weapons of mass destruction, programmes remain in Iraq. We also said we don't have information that those programmes have been fully stopped," Lavrov said.

Consequently, he said he supported a Security Council resolution in November 2002 giving "an unprecedented, intrusive mandate to UN inspectors and that is why we wanted the inspectors to finish their job."

"We said that we don't have information which would prove that the WMD programmes remain in Iraq. We also said we don't have information that those programmes have been fully stopped"

Sergei Lavrov,
Russian ambassador to UN

After Kay told Congress on 28 January, "we were almost all wrong," many US and British officials said members of the UN Security Council, as well as United Nations inspectors, got it wrong also. 

Russia opposed the war and at one time was Iraq's closest ally on the Security Council. Lavrov said Moscow believed UN inspectors provided an objective evaluation.

Lavrov said the current UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, known as UNMOVIC, could perhaps analyse any information the United States weapons hunters found. 

"If remnants are there, could be revived, we want to make sure they are eliminated. We don't want some wrong groups in Iraq to lay their hands on WMD in Iraq, if there are any," Lavrov said. 

But he said Iraq could not be a long-term job for UNMOVIC. Solutions should be found to retain the expertise of the commission, particularly on biological arms and ballistic missiles, for which there were no international inspection mechanisms.