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BBC on 'expelling' inspectors

Dear all,

A BBC article, 'UN says Iraq ready for talks', on
m erroneously states that Iraq expelled weapons inspectors in November [sic]
1998.  This is an untruth that I fear we will see several times in the near
future.  Below is the letter I sent to  The article is
interesting in itself, and I paste that at the end of the message.

Per Klevnas

Dear Sir or Madam,

I have found a factual inaccuracy in one of your news items.  The article
"UN says Iraq ready for talks" on
m states:

"Iraq has refused to allow weapons inspectors back into the country after it
expelled a team of arms monitors in November, 1998."

The second part of this sentence is untrue: inspectors were not expelled by
Iraq, but unilaterally withdrawn on the orders of the Executive Chairman,
Richard Butler,  in anticipation of Operation Desert Fox in late 1998.  The
UN Special Commission carrying out weapons inspections in Iraq (UNSCOM) own
website states: "16 Dec 1998 The Special Commission withdraws its staff from
Iraq." [1]

At the time there was no account of an expulsion of inspectors.  For
example, Josh
Friedman wrote in the New York Times on 17 Dec 1998:

"While the 133 [UN humanitarian] workers had been left behind, more than
185 others, most of them arms inspectors, had been evacuated yesterday by
air to neighboring Bahrain and by car to Jordan ... Butler abruptly pulled
all of his inspectors out of Iraq shortly after handing Annan a report
yesterday afternoon on Baghdad's continued failure to cooperate with

There is no reason to state an alternative version of events. In the present
climate of tension in relations between Iraq and other countries a truthful
account would seem especially important.

I look forward to a reply acknowledging this email and the concerns it


Per Klevnas


December 17, 1998.  By Josh Friedman, staff writer. (Please contact me if
you require the text of the full article).  The report in question is
S/1998/1172, which is available on

UN says Iraq ready for talks

Iraq has refused to allow weapons inspectors to return

Iraq has said it is ready to hold talks with United Nations Secretary
General Kofi Annan without preconditions, the UN says.

The offer of a "dialogue" came in a message from Iraqi President Saddam
Hussein to Mr Annan.

It was conveyed by the Secretary General of the Arab League, Amr Moussa.

Mr Annan said he would meet an Iraqi delegation to discuss the issue of UN
Security Council resolutions, which may include the return of UN weapons
inspectors to Iraq after a three-year absence.

Talks between the UN chief and Iraqi officials broke off a year ago after
Baghdad laid down conditions for resuming discussions, including an end to
sanctions imposed after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

Attack threat

The development comes amid mounting speculation that the United States is
planning to widen its war against terrorism beyond Afghanistan to include

Kofi Annan will meet Iraqi officials
In his State of the Union address last week, President George W Bush said
Iraq was part of an "axis of evil" of countries believed to be developing
weapons of mass destruction.

Iraq has refused to allow weapons inspectors back into the country after it
expelled a team of arms monitors in November, 1998.

The former head of the United Nations Special Commission on Iraq (Unscom),
Richard Butler, has voiced concern that even if inspectors are allowed back
into Iraq they will be prevented from working effectively.

The UN said Mr Moussa returned from a visit to the Iraqi capital Baghdad
last month "with a message from Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, saying the
Iraqis were prepared to resume dialogue with the Secretary General, without
any preconditions".

Sanctions dispute

The Arab League chief conveyed the offer during a meeting in New York with
Mr Annan on Monday.

Mr Annan's office said the secretary general would "check his calendar" to
find a convenient date to meet Iraqi representatives.

Mr Annan last held talks with Iraqi officials in February last year for the
first time in two years, but they did not resume after Saddam Hussein
insisted on an end to sanctions as a condition for continuing discussions.

The UN Security Council says sanctions can only be lifted after it is
satisfied Iraq is no longer seeking to produce chemical, nuclear or
biological weapons.

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