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Iraq agrees to offer UN inspectors more help in weapons probe

Iraq agrees to offer UN inspectors more help in weapons probe

Dr. Hans Blix (left) and Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei
After two days of talks between the chief United Nations arms inspectors and Iraqi officials, Baghdad today pledged to offer UN monitors more help in their probe for evidence of weapons of mass destruction.

The two sides issued a joint statement following discussions between Hans Blix, Executive Chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), Mohamed ElBaradei, Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and senior Iraqi officials on the inspection process so far, and other issues that need resolving.

Mr. Blix told reporters at the press conference that he had no doubt that the points agreed to would be respected and implemented, with Mr. ElBaradei adding that some progress had been made on nuclear issues.

According to the statement, the two sides discussed the arms declaration given on 7 December by Baghdad. “Iraq expressed a readiness to respond to questions raised in connection with the declaration and discuss such questions,” the text said.

The statement noted that access has been obtained to all sites, that it will continue and that the Iraqi side will encourage persons to accept access also to private sites. Iraq said it has also appointed a team to undertake an investigation and comprehensive search to look for other chemical weapons. Early last week UN inspectors found 11 empty 122 millimetre chemical munitions at the Al Ukhaidhir stores. The statement today said that four more units were already reported at the Al Taji munitions stores.

Iraq said it will also enact national legislation as soon as possible regarding proscribed activities, and agreed to continue technical discussions with the IAEA to clarify issues regarding aluminium tubes, alleged uranium importation and the use of high explosives, as well as other outstanding issues.

The statement also noted that a response was given to an UNMOVIC request for a number of documents. “Some were handed over and clarifications were given regarding others,” the text said. Meanwhile, the list of persons engaged in the various disciplines will be supplemented in accordance with advice from UNMOVIC and the IAEA. “Persons asked for interviews in private will be encouraged to accept this,” the statement said.

On logistical matters, the statement acknowledged that there has been helpful assistance in the logistic build-up of the inspection infrastructure such as at the UN office in Mosul, and that it will continue regarding a field office in Basrah. UNMOVIC and the IAEA also agreed that their helicopters would take an appropriate number of minders on board, as necessary.

After the press conference the two UN officials left for Athens, where they will address the presidency of the European Union. Afterwards, Mr. Blix will travel back to New York and Mr. ElBaradei to Vienna.