- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 15, 2002

BAGHDAD Reinforced with newly arrived staff, U.N. inspectors stepped up their searches yesterday, visiting a dozen sites in Iraq including rooms at an infectious-disease center where they were denied access a day earlier and the main Iraqi nuclear center, where nearly two tons of low-grade enriched uranium are stored.
"Today was probably the single largest" group of sites inspected since the teams returned to Iraq on Nov. 27 after a four-year hiatus, said Hiro Ueki, a spokesman for the U.N. program in Baghdad. He said inspectors had visited a total 70 sites.
After their first known snag, inspectors revisited the Communicable Disease Control Center in Baghdad yesterday, entering rooms that had been locked Friday.
Inspectors said in a statement that there was no sign of tampering with seals they applied to doors and windows at the center when they were denied access. They said yesterday's inspection lasted about an hour.
Iraqi officials said the rooms had been locked because Friday, the Muslim day of prayer, is a day off for doctors and other workers who had keys.
With the arrival of 15 additional inspectors yesterday, the total stands at 113.
Iraq received chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix's demand yesterday for a list of all personnel currently and formerly associated with the country's chemical, biological and ballistic-missile programs, a U.N. official said.
The U.N. Security Council resolution that ordered the resumed inspections authorizes teams to interview any Iraqi inside the country and without Iraqi officials present, or to take the person out of Iraq with his or her family.
Mr. Blix's letter demanded that Baghdad provide the names of the personnel by the end of the month.
One site visited yesterday was the main Iraqi nuclear center where nearly two tons of low-grade enriched uranium are stored. Inspection teams also went to a Scud missile facility that had been used to make bomb casings for chemical weapons before the end of the 1991 Persian Gulf war.
The Scud complex, the government-owned al-Nasr company, 30 miles north of Baghdad, also houses sophisticated machine tools that can, for example, help manufacture gas centrifuges. Such centrifuges are used to "enrich" uranium to bomb-grade level a method favored by the Iraqis in their bomb program of the late 1980s.
The al-Tuwaitha nuclear facility, 15 miles southeast of Baghdad, contains 1.8 tons of low-grade enriched uranium and several tons of natural and depleted uranium.
U.N. nuclear agency inspectors who visited the site yesterday have said the materials are of such low radioactivity that they could not be turned into weapons easily.
Iraqi officials said the nuclear facility had been destroyed twice by the Israelis in 1981 during the Iran-Iraq war and by the U.S.-led coalition that drove Iraqi forces out of Kuwait during the Gulf war.
Recent satellite photos show four new buildings at the site suspected of housing new nuclear projects. The Iraqis say the buildings are for environmental, medical and agricultural research.
U.S. jets, meanwhile, used "precision-guided weapons" against three air-defense installations yesterday morning south and east of Baghdad after Iraqi military jets violated the southern no-fly zone, the U.S. Central Command said.
"[The Iraqi warplanes] went south. I cannot begin to ascertain what their motivation was in doing so other than plainly violating the zone," Central Command spokesman Maj. Pete Mitchell said in Washington.
However, an Iraqi military spokesman, quoted by the official Iraqi News Agency, said U.S. and British planes bombed "civilian and service installations" in the southern no-fly zone.
U.S. and coalition aircraft have patrolled the southern and northern no-fly zones since the Gulf war ended. The zones were established to prevent Saddam Hussein from attacking the Kurdish minority in the north of the country and the Shi'ites in the south.
Also yesterday, Kuwait's parliament rejected an apology from Saddam for the 1990 to 1991 occupation of the oil-rich Gulf Arab state, saying it was a doomed attempt to stir up unrest in the key U.S. ally, Reuters news agency reported.
Saddam issued a letter on December 7 that apologized to the Kuwaiti people for the invasion but urged them to struggle against foreign armies seen as a reference to the thousands of U.S. troops training in Kuwait.
After a special session convened to discuss the apology, Kuwait's parliament said Saddam's statement was an attempt to fracture Kuwaiti national unity and an incitement to terrorism.
"What the Iraqi media falsely labeled as an apology to the Kuwaiti people is nothing but a hidden threat and an embodiment of envy, hatred and aggression," the Kuwaiti parliament said in a statement issued after the special session.

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