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Blix, UK's Blair hold talks on Iraq; UN inspections continue

Blix, UK's Blair hold talks on Iraq; UN inspections continue

Dr. Hans Blix
The chief United Nations weapons inspector, Hans Blix, met today in London with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and other senior government officials as he prepared to travel to Iraq this weekend for further talks with authorities in Baghdad.

Mr. Blix, Executive Chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), held separate discussions with Mr. Blair, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and officials from the United Kingdom's Foreign and Commonwealth Office on the state of the inspections and his upcoming trip to Baghdad.

Mr. Blix is making his way to Baghdad, where he and Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are expected to arrive Saturday morning for two days of talks with Iraqi officials. They are scheduled to give a press conference after the talks end on Sunday.

Meanwhile in Iraq, UN officials conducted a private interview with an Iraqi biological scientist that lasted more than three-and-a half hours. “During the interview, a number of issues were addressed,” said Hiro Ueki, spokesman for UNMOVIC and IAEA in Baghdad.

As for inspection activities, an UNMOVIC biological group inspected two separate sites: the Directorate of Teaching Laboratories, located in Saddam Medical City, which provides diagnostic services to the hospital and does post-graduate teaching for medical students; and the Abraj Alcohol Production Facility in Baghdad that produces ethanol through fermentation.

A missile team inspected the Al Kadhimiya site, which is involved in technical and administrative aspects of ballistic missile programme, and the Military College of Engineering, which is involved in the design and development of supersonic wind tunnels and machines for fibre-reinforced composite materials. “These inspections were conducted to verify Iraq’s declarations and to establish a comprehensive monitoring mechanism,” Mr. Ueki said.

Multidisciplinary teams, meanwhile, inspected 23 large ammunition storage bunkers and 81 outdoor storage areas at the Fallujah Ammunition Depot west of Baghdad, and the Arab Company for Detergent Chemicals in Baiji.

One IAEA team continued inspection at the Ashakyli Stores, while a second held meetings at the Iraqi Nuclear Monitoring Directorate (NMD). A third IAEA team monitored the transfer of several radioactive isotope sources from the former site of the Al Salam Company to a secure storage facility at Tuwaitha, and a fourth worked at the UN's Canal Hotel base preparing mobile air sampling equipment for deployment in the field.