- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 20, 2003

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Feb. 20 (UPI) — U.N. arms inspectors announced Thursday they searched eight sites suspected of producing weapons of mass destruction in and around Baghdad, while some inspectors complained privately to a U.S. newspaper that the Iraqis were dragging their feet and failing to cooperate willing with the inspections.

The Iraqi Foreign Ministry also said that a team from the International Atomic Energy Agency Wednesday had interviewed an Iraqi nuclear scientist at a Baghdad hotel. The interview — conducted without Iraqi minders — lasted for two hours and was recorded by the scientist on tape.

The issue of private interviews with Iraqi scientists has proved a sticking point for negotiations between inspectors and Iraq, with Iraq authorizing the first solo interview last Thursday.

A statement from the inspectors identified the scientist only as "an engineer previously associated with Iraq's former gas centrifuge enrichment program." Gas centrifuges are used to enrich uranium for making nuclear weapons.

Teams belonging to the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission and the IAEA searched plants producing parts for the Al Samoud 2 missile, including Ibn al-Haitham, al-Quds and al Soumoud. All the sites are run by Iraq's department of military industries, the Foreign Ministry said.

But the Washington Post reported in its Thursday editions that some inspectors were complaining privately about foot dragging by Iraqi officials.

In a report from Baghdad the Post said Iraq is apparently taking heart from the split in the Security Council regarding possible military action against the country and the worldwide protests against war on Iraq. As a result, Baghdad has changed from saying that its officials are complying with U.N. demands to asking for a lifting of sanctions instituted against Iraq after it was forced out of Kuwait more than 10 years ago.

"We have not seen any positive moves on the part of Iraq," one U.N. official in Iraq told The Washington Post, while another said, "They are not fulfilling their promises."

U.N. inspectors returned to Iraq in November after the Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1441, a strongly worded document that promised "serious consequences" should Iraq not live up to the stipulations outlined in the document. Those included giving U.N. inspectors unrestricted access inside Iraq and orders to report any interference by Iraq with the inspections.

The Post story, written Wednesday, said that since lead weapons inspectors Hans Blix and Mohammad ElBaradei reported to the Security Council last Friday the United Nations has not seen Iraq carry through on promises to deliver documents about old weapons programs, nor have there been interviews with scientists involved with possible weapons technology.

"We have done when was asked of us — and the whole word sees that," the Post quoted an unnamed senior Iraqi official as saying.

A U.N. official in Iraq told the newspaper that Iraq could well give in to U.N. demands, but only if the Security Council and lead inspectors push their point.

"What we've seen is that without pressure, Iraq is not going to cooperate with the inspectors," the official said.

Over the weekend there were large anti-war demonstrations in several cities around the world. The United States and Britain are having trouble finding support for anything stronger than additional inspections in Iraq in their Security Council deliberations.

The Post cited Iraqi newspaper accounts terming the anti-war movement a "humiliating international isolation" for the United States and Britain.

The Post quoted a U.N. official as saying: "They are feeling: The world opinion is with us. We can resist further pressure. We have time. We can play with the U.S. and U.K.

"This is very dangerous."

The Iraqi Foreign Ministry said Thursday that a three-man team conducted a radiation survey of the Nahrawan region, east of Baghdad, while other teams placed stickers and marks on missile launchers and equipment used in the production of missiles in several sites around the Iraqi capital.

Yet another team headed to the northern Baghdad suburb of al-Taji where it inspected a site for loading warheads also operated by the department of military industries.

Also Thursday, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein held a meeting with his top army officers, including Defense Minister Brig. Gen. Sultan Hashem Ahmed, who reportedly was under house arrest.

The official Iraqi News Agency said the meeting was aimed at "reviewing military and popular preparations to confront the U.S. war threats and means to boost the resistance and steadfastness of the Iraqi population to enable every citizen to contribute in the defense of Iraq's independence and sovereignty."

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