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UN arms inspectors visit former baby milk factory in Iraq

UN arms inspectors visit former baby milk factory in Iraq

United Nations arms experts today carried forward with inspections at several sites around Baghdad, including a former factory that used to produce dried baby milk.

Teams from the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) went to the Abu Gharib Baby Milk Plant, State Establishment for Daily Products, which is owned by the Ministry of Industry and Minerals. "The site is a previously declared and monitored site [and] has dual-use equipment, such as dryers, filter press and autoclave, which has been tagged and accounted for," said Hiro Ueki, a spokesman for UNMOVIC and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Baghdad.

An UNMOVIC chemical team, meanwhile, visited the Ibn Al Baytar Research Centre, which is focused on research and production of small quantities of chemicals for pharmaceutical purposes. Another team of missile inspectors returned to the Taji Technical Battalion - a missile storage area - to continue the work that had begun yesterday.

The IAEA team inspected two sites - the Al Razi Company, which has many staff and equipment from the former nuclear weapons programme, and is declared to be a site involved in laser development and projects for the military, and the Beytar Factory, a storage site for equipment salvaged from the former nuclear facilities, Mr. Ueki said.

According to the spokesman, since the resumption of weapons inspections in Iraq last month, UN teams have carried out some 150 checks of various facilities, sometimes returning to the same sites because of their size.

Mr. Ueki also noted the rotation in and out of Iraq of several arms experts, leaving the current roster at 102 UNMOVIC inspectors and 6 IAEA inspectors. "The IAEA personnel movement had been planned some time ago and is part of a normal rotation," Mr. Ueki said, adding that more inspectors are scheduled to arrive in Baghdad on 29 December.

"Even though the number of current IAEA inspectors is small, they have specialized expertise and are now conducting detailed quantitative assessments of Iraqi declarations," he said, noting that they are studying procurement records, factory inventories, and consumption records in an attempt to verify declarations about critical dual-use materials.

He pointed out that the IAEA conducts monitoring of air and water in Iraq to sample for radioactive isotopes. "A team left Baghdad yesterday after completing the first water sampling campaign since the resumption of inspections," he said. "They sampled 27 sites along rivers and lakes, and at the sewage outfalls of industrial facilities. These campaigns are conducted on a regular basis and provide quantitative measurements of man-made activities involving radioactive nuclides."