UN resumes interviews of scientists on Iraqi arms programme

UN resumes interviews of scientists on Iraqi arms programme

UN inspectors in Iraq
After a four-year hiatus, United Nations inspectors today resumed their interviews of Iraqi scientists, questioning at length an expert at Baghdad Technical University.

During its examination of the university, a team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) asked to speak to a particular Iraqi scientist, who was interviewed separately from the rest of the inspection, according to a spokesman for the Agency and the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC).

"The scientist consented to a lengthy interview regarding technical activities in Iraq," said Hiro Ueki in Baghdad. "The interview was conducted in a private office chosen at random, without cameras, or recordings being present. The interviewee requested an Iraqi witness to join him."

Meanwhile, a second IAEA team inspected the Salah al Din General Establishment (Electronics Factory), which produces such items as radars, fuses, and communications equipment for the military as well as some civilian products. The factory was associated with the past nuclear programme until 1990, according to Mr. Ueki.

As for UNMOVIC inspectors, the spokesman reported that a team of missile experts inspected the Al Nidaa Factory in south Baghdad, which makes mechanical parts and equipment for different types of missiles. Another missile team inspected the Abdul Kareem Abass Plant, which is a newly declared site in the 1 October Iraqi declaration and the only plant in Iraq that manufactures ammonium perchlorate, the primary ingredient used in the production of solid propellant.

A third missile team went to three different sites - Tarmiya, Baquba, and Taji - under the control of the Taji Technical Battalion, where they checked and applied identification tags to Al-Samoud missiles and warheads.

An UNMOVIC biological team inspected the College of Veterinary Medicine at Baghdad University in Abu Ghraib, where it inspected the whole site and checked previously tagged equipment, Mr. Ueki reported. A second biological unit inspected the brewery of the National Company Food Industries (NCFI), which has previously tagged dual-use equipment, fermenters and filter press.

An UNMOVIC chemical team inspected Hutten State Establishment (Iskandariyah Ammunition Filling Plant), which produces conventional ammunitions, while another squad inspected oil facilities in the Basra region.

In other news, Iraq exported 13.9 million barrels of oil during the week ending 20 December, according to the latest figures released by the UN office running the humanitarian “oil-for-food” programme, which allows Baghdad to use a portion of its crude revenues to purchase relief supplies.

The Office of the Iraq Programmes reported that the exports netted Iraq an estimated €352 million (euros), or $361 million. Since the start of its latest phase, the programme has earned an estimated $508 million.