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UN arms experts press forward with inspections in Iraq

UN arms experts press forward with inspections in Iraq

As the chief United Nations inspectors briefed the Security Council today in New York, UN arms experts in Iraq pressed forward with their probe on the ground.

A multidisciplinary team from the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) took off on three Bell-212 helicopters from the Al Rasheed Air Base in Baghdad this morning to inspect a site but returned without landing due to weather conditions in the inspection site area, according to a UN spokesman in Baghdad.

Missile teams from UNMOVIC visited three facilities. At the first, the Al Rafah Liquid Engine Test Facility, they witnessed a static test firing of the Al Samoud missile engine that had been postponed for technical reasons.

A second team travelled to the Al Meelad Military Research and Development Company, which specializes in the design and development of missile guidance and control systems. "The technical staff at the facility addressed questions regarding the status of the Al Fatah guidance and control development programme," said Hiro Ueki, spokesman for UNMOVIC and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The Al Fatah is a short-range rocket with a maximum range of 150 kilometres.

The third team of missile inspectors visited the Al Harith Missile Maintenance Workshop in Taji to temporarily remove UNMOVIC identification tags from nine SA-2 surface-to-air missiles to facilitate required maintenance and repair. The rockets are tagged to ensure that they are not converted into ballistic missiles capable of proscribed ranges, Mr. Ueki noted.

Meanwhile, UNMOVIC biological and chemical teams inspected the Central Veterinary Diagnosis Laboratory in Baghdad and the Al Siniya Small Refineries Project near Bayji, respectively. The laboratory receives samples of animal blood and tissue submitted by other government veterinary agencies and analyzes these to diagnose bacterial, parasitic and viral diseases.

A Mosul-based multidisciplinary team inspected the General Public Health Laboratory in Mosul, according to Mr. Ueki. The laboratory conducts basic bacteriological diagnostic tests and routine screenings.

The IAEA inspected the Baquba Electrical Plant, a State Company for Electrical Industries, which produces electrical goods such as transformers, welding machines, electrical meters and fans for the heavy as well as light current electrical market.