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UN arms inspectors continue preparations for work inside Iraq - report

UN arms inspectors continue preparations for work inside Iraq - report

Despite Baghdad's refusal to cooperate, United Nations weapons inspectors are continuing preparations for work inside Iraq, according to a report released today at UN Headquarters in New York.

In his periodic report to the Security Council, Hans Blix, the Executive Chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), writes that the Commission “continues to see to attain a high state of readiness for the start of work in Iraq.”

Mr. Blix reports that at a recent closed meeting of the UNMOVIC College of Commissioners he told the group that "once inspections in Iraq became possible, UNMOVIC would be ready to commence operations without delay."

During their discussions, commissioners expressed the view that the events of 11 September had "brought a new urgency" to international efforts to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, according to the report.

Noting that UNMOVIC's preparatory work includes analysis of satellite images that are used to create line diagrams of sites for inspection purposes, Mr. Blix expresses hope that Member States will continue to provide UNMOVIC with satellite imagery "as such assistance to date has proven very valuable."

Experts from UNMOVIC are also analyzing "open-source" information - newspapers, academic journals and other published material, as well as television and radio broadcasts - on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capabilities.

In another development, the Security Council panel monitoring the sanctions against Iraq - known as the 661 committee for the resolution which established it - met behind closed doors this afternoon in New York to discuss a range of issues, including the tanker TT Essex which was involved in a case of smuggling Iraqi oil.

Also today, a UN spokesman announced that Baghdad and the United Nations had signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the current phase of the oil-for-food programme. Last week, the Security Council approved a 180-day extension of the scheme, which allows Iraq to use a portion of its petroleum revenues to purchase humanitarian relief.