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UN inspections pick up pace in Iraq

UN inspections pick up pace in Iraq

With over 100 United Nations weapons inspectors now in Iraq, the international probe of the country's arms programme is picking up pace.

Two teams of missile inspectors from the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) today visited separate locations involved in missile activity: the Saad General Company, owned by the Military Industrialization Corporation, and the Taji Fiberglass production plant. When last inspected in 1998, the fiberglass plant employed very few people, but now it has over 200 workers.

The UNMOVIC biological team inspected the Institute for Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering within the Baghdad University complex at Al Jadiriya. "The Institute is engaged in training, teaching and research activities in biotechnology and genetic engineering," UN spokesman Hiro Ueki explained. "The team completed full inspection of the whole building housing the Institute with the assistance of the Institute Director and the chiefs of two departments."

Inspectors then revisited the Al Amiryah Serum and Vaccine Institute in Baghdad to seek clarifications from the former Director of the Institute, according to the spokesman. The team took physical inventory of the Institute and took some samples.

An UNMOVIC chemical team inspected the Al Nassir Al Atheen State Company, formerly known as Heavy Engineering State Company. "The team conducted rebaselining inspection, including changes that had occurred since 1998" when the UN probe was suspended, Mr. Ueki said. "The team inspected all the buildings and dual-purpose equipment at the site."

A team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) visited three sites: the Hatteen State Company, the Iskanderya Foundry and the Iskanderya State Enterprises for Mechanical Industries. "Following discussions with the sites' operators, the team took environmental samples, inspected the machine tools in the factories, and conducted a radiological survey of the sites," Mr. Ueki said.

Another IAEA team visited four sites: Al Qa Qaa, Mussayib Army Munitions Depot, Al Motaseem Factory, and the Hatteen Establishment's testing range. According to the spokesman, these sites work as a unit in the Iraqi military armaments structure to produce and test munitions.

Describing the Al Qa Qaa site in an interview with UN Radio, UNMOVIC spokesman Ewen Buchanan said Iraq had conducted much of its nuclear weapons programme there in the past. "It's a large sprawling site with quite literally hundreds of buildings so its not particularly surprising that it would be subjected to fairly close investigation," he said.