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Iraq invites UN envoy on return of missing Kuwaiti persons and property to visit

Iraq invites UN envoy on return of missing Kuwaiti persons and property to visit

The Iraqi Ambassador to the United Nations in New York has sent a letter to a UN envoy dealing with the return of missing Kuwaiti nationals and property, informing him that the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iraq would welcome his visit to Baghdad, a UN spokesman said today.

This is the first time that Yuli Vorontsov, the High-level Coordinator on the issue, has been invited to visit Iraq, spokesman Fred Eckhard told reporters in New York. "No time has been set for the visit yet," he added.

Meanwhile in Iraq, the latest group of UN arms experts arrived in Baghdad today as teams already on the ground continued their probe into the country’s weapons programme. The teams attended the test launch of a short-range ballistic missile under development, and carried out inspections at a number of sites outside the capital.

The launch took place at a test range approximately 200 kilometres west of Baghdad, according to a spokesman for the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The missile is a modified version of one already owned by Iraq, and its range falls within that allowed under the UN resolutions, spokesman Hiro Ueki said in Baghdad. "The UNMOVIC team was able to examine the missile before launch to verify its configuration," he added.

Another UNMOVIC team visited the Arab Company for Antibiotics Industry (ACAI), a pharmaceutical plant engaged in the formulation and packaging of antibiotics. "Upon arrival, the team found that the site was not operating today since it operates Saturday through Wednesday," Mr. Ueki said. However, the team successfully carried out a detailed inspection of all buildings.

As for the IAEA teams, they conducted inspections at five facilities, Mr. Ueki noted. Two visited Al Nida, an engineering facility, and Al Zawraa, an electronics fabrication facility, both in the vicinity of Baghdad. The inspection of these sites was made in order to review the activities and personnel at these sites since 1998 and to review the disposition and use of dual-purpose machine tools and equipment formerly known to the IAEA.

Another two IAEA teams inspected the Al Mutasim missile plant occupying the grounds of the former Al Athear nuclear facility. Observations were also made, with the assistance of an experienced UNMOVIC missile specialist, of rocket production facilities. In addition, the team visited the Al Hatteen firing range to inventory equipment previously monitored by the Agency.

Two other IAEA teams visited Ibn Sina, formally known as Tarmiya. "This was to conduct a follow-up visit to this former uranium enrichment plant to undertake a full inspection of the production and laboratory facilities, including a car-borne Gamma survey of the site and surrounding areas," Mr. Ueki reported.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the IAEA conducted an inspection of the Al Qaim Chemical and Al Qaim Cement facilities located near the Syrian border. Al Qaim was a producer of uranium "yellow cake" prior to 1991. The facility was frequently visited by the IAEA prior to 1998 and its processes at that time were well understood. This inspection covered all buildings on this large complex site and included appropriate sampling of raw materials, ore and concentrates.

Today's arrival of 28 staffers from UNMOVIC brings the total number of inspectors up to 98 - 71 from the Commission and 27 from the IAEA, Mr. Ueki said.