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Iraq invites top UN inspector for talks ahead of Security Council briefing next month

Iraq invites top UN inspector for talks ahead of Security Council briefing next month

UN inspectors in Iraq
As inspections continued on the ground in Iraq, the United Nations today confirmed that Baghdad has invited the chief UN arms expert for further discussions on the international probe into the country's weapons programmes.

Gen. Amir Al-Saadi, Iraq's top liaison with the UN monitors, wrote over the weekend to Hans Blix, Executive Chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), suggesting that Mr. Blix travel to Baghdad in mid-January for more talks, a spokesman for the Commission said.

"As you know, we are to present an update to the Security Council on 27 January so it does seem a useful idea for Mr. Blix to go to Baghdad to have discussions about where we are, how we move forward to implement the Council's resolutions," UNMOVIC spokesman Ewen Buchanan told UN Radio.

Meanwhile outside Baghdad, an UNMOVIC team of missile inspectors visited the Al Mamoun plant to witness the casting process of a solid propellant motor for the Al Ubour missile. Another team inspected the Al Mansour plant, which produces semiconductors, industrial gases and drinking water, according to Hiro Ueki, spokesman for UNMOVIC and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Baghdad.

An UNMOVIC biological team conducted an inspection of the Ibn Seena Research Centre in Baghdad, which conducts research and testing into new pharmaceutical formulations. A second biological team inspected the National Centre of Drug Control and Research in Baghdad, which is owned by the Ministry of Health and carries out analysis of imported and locally manufactured drugs.

In Baghdad, an chemical team from UNMOVIC inspected two research centres: the Chemical Engineering Research Design Centre, which is part of the Sa'ad Company and was inspected on 29 December; and the Petrochemical Research and Development Centre, which is under the Ministry of Oil. "Both inspections were focused on verifying the current status of their activities, as well as their activities since 1998," Mr. Ueki said.

An UNMOVIC multidisciplinary team inspected the Chemical Corp's Training Centre, which consists of administrative buildings, classrooms, warehouses, workshops and several training ranges where live training is conducted.

An IAEA team inspected the Mechanical Engineering Design Centre, Mr. Ueki said. The Centre consists of several technical design departments serving local industry in the design of general, as well as specialized, equipment.

In other news, the UN Office of the Iraq Programme reported that in the week ending 27 December there were 10 loadings of Iraqi crude oil totalling 14.3 million barrels. Exports earned about $409 million for the UN-run oil-for-food programme, based on an average price of $26.90 per barrel for Iraqi crude.

The revenue generated thus far from the current phase of the programme, which permits Baghdad to use earning from oil exports to purchase relief supplies, stands at approximately $910 million.