Chief UN weapons inspector discusses Iraq with British Prime Minister

Chief UN weapons inspector discusses Iraq with British Prime Minister

The head of the United Nations commission charged with dismantling Iraq's weapons of mass destruction today discussed recent developments with British Prime Minister Tony Blair during a meeting in London.

Hans Blix, the Executive Chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), briefed Prime Minister Blair on his recent visit to Baghdad, including discussions with the Iraqi Foreign Minister and other senior Iraqi officials on the status of preparations for the resumption of weapons inspections on 27 November, a UN spokesman reported.

Mr. Blix, who had previously conferred in Paris with the Foreign Ministers of France and Mexico on his way to Baghdad, stopped in London in the context of his continuing consultations with Security Council members. The UNMOVIC chief is scheduled to brief the full Council on Monday afternoon.

Meanwhile in Baghdad, the spokesman for UNMOVIC and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Hiro Ueki, announced that the first group of weapons inspectors would arrive on Monday, with 12 coming from UNMOVIC and 6 from the IAEA.

UNMOVIC, which has approximately 300 inspectors on its roster, will have 80 to 100 in place by the end of the year, while the IAEA, which has 33 inspectors on standby, will deploy approximately 20 in Iraq at any given time, according to the spokesman.

Responding to press questions, Mr. Ueki predicted that weapons inspectors would first visit previously monitored sites to check the conditions of the equipment and to "re-baseline" the areas, a process which involves comparisons against the results of past inspections. At the same time, the spokesman did not rule out the possibility that other sites would be inspected at any stage, once inspections resume.