Fate of Iraq Hangs in Balance as UN...

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Posted by Esperanza from 66-52-14-42.lsan.dial.netzero.com ( on Saturday, February 08, 2003 at 3:14PM :

Fate of Iraq hangs in balance as UN disarmament chief visits

8 February 2003

BAGHDAD - The fate of Iraq was hanging in the balance on Saturday as UN chief weapons inspectors began a new mission here that could spell the difference between war and peace in the face of US threats to invade and occupy the country.

Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei arrived in Baghad shortly after noon from their rear base in Cyrpus and were to start official talks at the foreign ministry at 4:00 pm (1300 GMT), the information ministry said.

Their arrival coincided with the 40th anniversay of a coup that brought the Baath Party of President Saddam Hussein to power in 1963. For the occasion, a large solidarity demonstration and a parade were being organised on Saturday in Takrit, Saddam’s hometown and stronghold.

Blix declined comment as he left Cyprus, saying he and ElBaradei would hold a press conference here Sunday night. But Blix earlier told CNN he expected “cooperation on substance” from Iraqi officials, saying they must come forward with any illegal weapons or present an “adequate explanation” for those that might already have been destroyed.

The 36-hour mission could prove momentous for the fate of Iraq as the United States now appears more determined than ever to use force to strip Saddam of the weapons of mass destruction it says he is hiding.

A report from Blix and ElBaradei, to be delivered to the Security Council on February 14, that Iraq had failed to adequately cooperate with inspectors could trigger the long-threatened US attack.

Blix said he hoped meetings of UN inspectors and Iraqi scientists unaccompanied by government monitors since Thursday represented “the turn of the tide” in Iraqi cooperation.

United Nations and Iraqi authorities reported that UN disarmament inspectors questioned four Iraqi scientists in private on Thursday and Friday.

Iraqi officials identified the first scientist to have been interviewed in private as biologist Sinan al-Mohyi, who works at the National Monitoring Directorate, a state agency that liaises with the UN inspectors.

UN spokesman Hiro Ueki described the experts interviewed Friday as a senior scientist, a missile expert and a chemical engineer.

Private interviews had been a longstanding demand of the UN disarmament mission.

The meetings appeared to be part of an Iraqi effort to step up cooperation with the UN teams and ward off the threatened US invasion.

On Saturday, the newspaper of Saddam’s elder son Uday said it hoped Blix and ElBaradei would appreciate Iraq’s “sacrifices” in its efforts to comply with UN disarmament demands.

“We, in Iraq, are seeking to secure the success of the work of the (UN) inspections and avoid the danger of an aggression, not just against us but against the region and the world,” said Babel.

“This demands big sacrifices from us, and we hope they will be the focus of the attention and appreciation of the Security Council and Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei.

“We believe that the free world is expecting a lot from us during their visit to Iraq in order to certify the lies of the evil US administration and confirm our credibility and cooperation for the success of the inspections,” the daily said.

On the ground, teams of UN inspectors headed out on five field checks of suspect sites in Baghdad and other provinces Saturday, according to a statement by the information ministry.

Among the sites inspected were an electricity installation and a water purification company in Baghdad, and a technical sciences institute in the northern city of Mosul.

-- Esperanza
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