- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 5, 2003

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Feb. 5 (UPI) — Two Iraqi scientists involved in Iraq's past nuclear and chemical programs refused to conduct private interviews with international arms inspectors, insisting on the presence of an Iraqi official, a U.N. official told reporters.

The spokesman for the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission and the International Atomic Energy Agency, Hiro Yoki of Japan, said in a news briefing Tuesday night that the scientists, who were not identified, insisted on the presence of an official from the Iraqi National Monitoring Department and the interviews were consequently cancelled.

U.N. inspectors have sought interviews with scientists as part of their Security Council-mandated efforts to ascertain whether Iraq continues to possess and develop chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. Iraq says it has disarmed itself of such weapons of mass destruction.

Although Iraq has said it would encourage its scientists to give private interviews to the inspectors, the latter were insisting on the presence of an Iraqi official to guarantee that their answers and testimonies would not be re-worded or falsified, Iraqi sources said.

Yoki also declared that the inspectors discovered on Tuesday a "Sakr-18" chemical warhead while searching an installation run by Iraq's Department of Military Industries. The Iraqis said the warhead was accounted for in their weapons' declaration presented to the U.N. Security Council last December, after the panel passed a resolution demanding it make a full and complete disclosure of any weapons of mass destruction.

Last month, the inspectors discovered 12 empty artillery shells, designed to hold chem-bio agents.

Meanwhile, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein met with officers of Saddam's Fedayin, commanded by his eldest son, Uday, to verify their readiness to confront the looming U.S. attack.

Western analysts consider Saddam's Fedayin, a paramilitary body set up in 1994, as not militarily impressive. Saddam's younger son, Qusay, commands the more highly rated Revolutionary Guards.

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