- The Washington Times - Monday, September 30, 2002

LONDON The U.N. weapons inspector who led the only official visit to Saddam Hussein's presidential palaces in 1998 has warned the head of the new U.N. team that Iraq will seek to trick him when the two sides meet in Vienna, Austria, today.
Charles Duelfer, the former deputy chief inspector, said over the weekend that he feared that Hans Blix, the chief weapons inspector, would concede too much during the discussions with Baghdad officials on practical arrangements for inspections.
In particular, he fears that, without a fresh U.N. resolution to change the ground rules, Mr. Blix will give in to Iraqi demands to restrict inspectors' access at key locations. These include eight presidential palaces and dozens of other "sensitive sites" around the country.
The Bush administration sent envoys over the weekend to Moscow, Paris and Beijing all of which have U.N. Security Council vetoes hoping to win support for a resolution stiffening the terms for the inspections.
But Russia said yesterday that military intervention was not needed, Cox news service reported from Moscow.
The U.S. draft, to be made public today, sets out a seven-day deadline for Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to accept demands to disarm and open all suspected weapons sites to U.N. weapons inspectors. It also sets a 30-day deadline for Iraq to make a full declaration of any weapons-of-mass-destruction programs and authorizes a military attack if Baghdad does not comply.
But the Russian news agency Interfax quoted high-ranking Kremlin officials as saying the American draft, "in its current form cannot be implemented by its very nature."
In Vienna, a spokeswoman for the International Atomic Energy Agency told Reuters news agency that this week's talks, expected to last through Wednesday, "will create a general structure for the inspections, to work out all the details."
"They're purely technical. We'll be laying on the table what we need," spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said.
Mr. Blix is expected to test Iraq's willingness to help with arrangements for offices, transport, communications, accommodation, escorts, landing sites for aircraft, and offices in Basra in the south and Mosul in the north.
He has also been promised by Iraq an up-to-date list of equipment and materials that have both civilian and military uses and how they are deployed.
But Mr. Duelfer said there is "a danger" in the Vienna meeting. "I worry what [Mr. Blix] is going to accept in terms of procedures, implementation and other practical questions," he said in an interview.
A British dossier released last week on Iraq's weapons programs singled out Saddam's network of palaces huge compounds with a combined land area of almost 20 square miles consisting of more than 1,000 buildings as crucial to Iraq's attempts to conceal its secret arsenal.
Under a "memorandum of understanding" in early 1998, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan agreed to severely restrict visits to these palaces, where inspectors had hoped to find a paper trail with evidence of Saddam's chemical, nuclear and biological weapons. Inspectors were obliged to give lengthy notice, to restrict their numbers and to be accompanied by foreign diplomats.
Iraq also restricted inspectors' access to dozens of other "sensitive" or "sovereign" sites including smaller palaces which were declared as such only when inspectors arrived.
They included the headquarters of the ruling Ba'ath Party, the Republican Guard and the Special Republican Guard, the Ministry of Defense in Baghdad, and engineering and academic research centers all likely repositories for weapons, the means to make them or the documents needed to set up and control the weapons programs.
These special arrangements were agreed to by inspectors at the time, and were referred to obliquely in a Security Council resolution endorsing the deal on the palaces, which still stands as the only formal ruling on the subject. Now Iraq is claiming that the precedent must stand for the new team of inspectors.
"There is a serious problem here and it's far from certain that Blix will be able to nail it," said one diplomat close to the United Nations.
Mr. Duelfer said Mr. Blix "needs to be more capable than we were, not less capable. If the Iraqis succeed in restricting him, the inspections will be pointless. The chances of their succeeding are slim as it is."
The eight designated presidential palaces referred to in the British dossier are seen as much as monuments to Saddam's vanity as large-scale repositories of weapons. They range from his most extravagant palace spread over 1 square miles at Tikrit, Saddam's birthplace, to three palaces in Baghdad.
When U.N. inspectors gained entry to the palaces in 1998, they found barely a scrap of paper and, in some cases, not a stick of furniture.
The inspectors had time only to draw up maps detailing the palace boundaries and compile an inventory of buildings as the "baseline" for later, more rigorous searches which they were never permitted to make.
They were unable to substantiate rumors of underground tunnels and chambers that some believed Saddam had built to hide documents, computer disks and even laboratories for the development of biological weapons.
One Iraqi stonemason who worked on the palaces and later fled to the United States said the buildings are "like the palaces in the Arabian Nights."


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