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More UN inspectors arrive in Iraq as probe picks up pace

More UN inspectors arrive in Iraq as probe picks up pace

Today was the busiest day yet for United Nations weapons inspectors resuming their work in Iraq, with new experts arriving to bolster their ranks, a UN spokesman reported.

Germ warfare experts from the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) carried out inspections at two sites today, while International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) teams visited four different facilities.

The UNMOVIC biological team inspected the National Project for Controlling Brucellosis and Tuberculosis and the Saddam Center for Biotechnology. "The team accomplished the inspection objectives smoothly," spokesman Hiro Ueki said in Baghdad.

Meanwhile, at Tuwaitha, an IAEA team continued to take a physical inventory of nuclear materials from Iraq's past nuclear programme. Mr. Ueki predicted that this work would be completed by Thursday.

Another team investigated an outlying site of the Al Qa Qaa explosives plant, as well as the Al Furat State Company for Chemical Industries in Mussayib. Inspections were made at a complex of sites belonging to the Al Karama facility.

Another IAEA team departed Baghdad for the Qaim Phosphate Complex near the town of al-Qaim on the western border of Iraq. "Qaim was previously associated with Iraq's production of uranium from ores found in the area," Mr. Ueki said. "The team is tasked with verifying the status of destroyed equipment at this site and an inspection to determine that no uranium extraction activities have been resumed."

The arrival of additional inspectors today brought to 70 the total number in Iraq - 43 from UNMOVIC and 27 from the IAEA. In addition, the first UN helicopter was flight-tested today.

In a separate development, the Office of the Iraq Programme reported today that Iraqi crude exports under the UN's humanitarian "oil-for-food" programme dipped slightly last week to 10.8 million barrels, compared with the previous week's 11.9 million barrels.

The Office blamed the erratic sales on a variety of factors, including "Iraq's periodic suspension of oil exports under the programme; the absence of agreement between Iraq and the UN Sanctions Committee on oil pricing; declining technical capacity to produce oil; and the concerns of traders about the reliability of Iraqi supplies, including possible disruptions as a consequence of current political developments."