- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 18, 2003

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Feb. 18 (UPI) — Iraq confirmed Tuesday that an American U-2 surveillance plane flew over its territory to search for suspected weapons of mass destruction.

The Iraqis agreed last week to let U.S. spy planes fly over their territory to avert a possible U.S.-led military offensive.

"A U-2 surveillance plane entered the Iraqi airspace at 11:55 a.m. and left at 4:51 p.m. after flying over several areas," said the Iraqi Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

Last week, in an attempt to end the threat of military conflict, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein issued a decree banning the import, or making weapons of mass destruction. Overflight facilities to the U-2 planes were part of the demand.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has already said, however, that such measures aren't enough to avert a U.S. military offensive.

He urged Iraq to "fully disarm or face the consequences."

Over the weekend, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice warned Saddam had "weeks, not months" to comply with the U.N. resolutions asking him to disarm.

Meanwhile, a London-based Arabic newspaper Assharq al Awasat reported Tuesday U.S. military personnel recently entered Baghdad and carried out a series of exercises aimed at testing the readiness of Saddam's troops. Quoting sources in Baghdad, the Saudi-owned newspaper said during the exercise U.S. Special Forces also conducted a set of explosions that caused panic in the Iraqi capital.

The Iraqi authorities, the paper said, have arrested dozens of security officials for allowing the Americans to enter Baghdad.

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