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[casi] Baghdad objects to palace inspection; inspectors say treading thin line, getting results

Dear list,

Baghdad objects to palace inspection; inspectors say
treading thin line, getting results

CHARLES J. HANLEY, AP Special Correspondent   Wednesday,
December 4, 2002


(12-04) 12:48 PST BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) --

Iraq objected Wednesday to U.N. weapons inspectors'
surprise intrusion into one of Saddam Hussein's
presidential palaces. The U.N. monitors countered that
they're taking the right approach -- navigating between
Iraqi complaints and U.S. pressure for more "severe"

"We are getting results," said inspection team leader
Demetrius Perricos.

Among other things, he reported that on a five-hour
inspection Wednesday of a desert installation, the
international arms experts secured about a dozen Iraqi
artillery shells -- previously known to be there --
containing a powerful chemical weapon, the liquid agent

It was the first report of such armaments traced and
controlled in the week-old round of new inspections.

Perricos' team and another paid unannounced visits to that
key site and to the nerve center of Iraq's old nuclear
weapons program, places that were bombed, searched and
dismantled in the 1990s. The 2002 inspectors wanted to
ensure that Baghdad's plans for weapons of mass
destruction have not been revived.

The inspections resumed after a four-year suspension,
under a new U.N. Security Council mandate requiring Iraq
to surrender any remaining weapons of mass destruction and
shut down any programs to make them.

A critical deadline approaches this weekend for the
Baghdad government. On Saturday, it is expected to submit
a declaration to the United Nations on any Iraqi weapons
of mass destruction, as well as on similar nuclear,
chemical and biological programs it says are peaceful. No
inspections are scheduled for Thursday or Friday because
of the Islamic holiday of Eid el-Fitr, which marks the end
of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

The Bush administration alleges Baghdad retains some
chemical and biological weapons_ missed during 1990s
inspections -- and has not abandoned plans for nuclear
weapons. The Iraqi government maintains it no longer holds
such weapons and intends to say so in the declaration.

Its report may include lengthy technical detail about past
weapons programs and current nonmilitary industries,
possibly requiring weeks of U.N. analysis.

The inspectors' new mandate toughens their powers to
search anywhere, anytime in Iraq for signs of prohibited
armaments. They took advantage of that authority on
Tuesday to demand and receive quick entry to the opulent
Al-Sajoud palace, beside the Tigris River in Baghdad, one
of dozens of palaces built by Saddam during his 23-year

The team's 11/2-hour inspection, a brief but symbolic show
of U.N. muscle, drew a rebuke from the Iraqis on

"We consider the entry of the presidential sites as
unjustified and really unnecessary," said Gen. Hossam
Mohammed Amin, chief Iraqi liaison to the inspectors. A
statement from the Iraqi Foreign Ministry asked whether
this "bad behavior" by the U.N. officials resulted from
pressure from the United States, Britain and Israel.

Amin added, however, that Iraq would not try to block U.N.
visits to other palaces.

Disputes over inspections of presidential palaces
contributed to tensions that developed between U.N.
inspectors and the Iraqi government in the 1990s. Personal
negotiations between Saddam and U.N. Secretary-General
Kofi Annan produced an agreement whereby inspectors had to
supply advance notice of such inspections and accept
diplomatic escorts.

Perricos, meeting with reporters Wednesday, noted that the
new Security Council resolution overrides such agreements.

"It's a place that should not be exempted from access," he
said of the palace visit.

Asked about the Iraqi complaints, Perricos added that "the
Iraqi side would have liked us to be very light. The U.S.
side, from what I hear from you" -- referring to the news
media -- "would like us to be extremely severe."

"I think what we are doing is the proper way. We are still
doing a good job."

President Bush had said on Tuesday that "the signs are not
encouraging" the Iraqis will cooperate with the
disarmament effort, even though the inspectors have
reported nothing but Iraqi cooperation thus far.

The U.N. teams are picking up where their predecessors
left off in 1998, when the monitoring regime collapsed
amid disputes over access and U.S. spying from within the
U.N. operation.

The inspectors of the 1990s eliminated tons of Iraqi
chemical and biological weapons and the equipment to make
them, and dismantled Iraq's program to build nuclear

The desolate al-Muthanna State Establishment, among camel
herds and wild dogs in the desert 40 miles northwest of
Baghdad, was Iraq's most important chemical weapons
research and production facility in the 1980s, and was
heavily bombed in the 1991 Gulf War.

Later in the 1990s, the U.N. inspectors moved into the
site and destroyed huge amounts of material: 38,500
artillery shells and other chemical-filled weapons, almost
500,000 gallons of liquid material and 150 pieces of
equipment used to make chemical agents, according to a
recent Iraqi report.

Allowed onto the 10-square-mile installation after the
inspectors left, journalists saw the 1990s inspectors'
handiwork, in storage sheds with huge industrial vats and
crumpled empty bomb casings strewn about -- remnants of an
enterprise that made some of the most feared chemical
weapons, including sarin and VX nerve agent.

The discarded equipment was inventoried and tagged by the
old monitors, and the new team wanted to check that no
machinery had been put back into service.

"They found things as they were in 1998, and there's no
activity now at this site," Raad Manhal, Iraqi liaison
officer at the site, told reporters.

Perricos later said the arms experts had located "between
10 and 20" artillery shells, loaded with the agent for
mustard gas, that were recorded at the site but had not
been destroyed because of the abrupt collapse of
inspections in 1998. His team secured the shells in their
storage place and planned to destroy them, he said.

The second team went to al-Tuwaitha, long the heart of
Iraqi nuclear research, where scientists and engineers in
the 1980s worked on technology to produce fuel for nuclear

Al-Tuwaitha, 15 miles southeast of Baghdad, also was
heavily bombed and later monitored in the 1990s. Recent
satellite photos show new construction at the sprawling
complex, however, and the nuclear specialists wanted to
check those buildings. Team leader Jacques Baute did not
elaborate on what they found, but told reporters he was
satisfied with Iraqi cooperation.

If Iraq is eventually found to have cooperated fully with
the inspectors, U.N. resolutions call for the Security
Council to consider lifting economic sanctions imposed on
Iraq after it invaded Kuwait in 1990.

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