- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 18, 2003

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Jan. 18 (UPI) — International arms inspectors continued their search for banned weapons Saturday in Iraq on the eve of a visit to Baghdad by their respective chiefs. Hans Blix, head of the U.N. team, and Mohammad ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, are due to meet Sunday with Iraqi officials.

Ballistic, nuclear, biological and chemical experts visited six sites in the capital, Baghdad, and its suburbs. Al-Tuweitheh was one such site, having in the past contained two nuclear energy reactors, Tammouz 1 and Tammouz 2. One of the reactors was destroyed by Israeli air strikes in 1981, and the other was demolished by U.S.-led coalition forces during the 1991 Gulf War.

The Al-Tuweitheh installation, which has been visited by inspectors 10 times by the IAEA since resuming inspections on Nov. 27, also houses the Atomic Energy Organization that supervises Iraq's energy-related nuclear activities.

Experts also inspected al-Quqah Co., affiliated with Iraq's military industry, in the past few weeks. The company specializes in producing parts of short-range missiles not exceeding a distance of 150 kilometers (about 95 miles), which is approved by the U.N Security Council.

The inspectors also visited Baghdad University and Kufah University, about 60 miles south of the capital. Inspectors have visited a number of colleges and universities teaching sciences and questioned their professors, moves approved by the U.N. Security Council under the resolution passed unanimously on Nov. 8, but which some Iraqi officials have called unjustified.

Officials accused the inspectors of "intelligence gathering" and even spying with their questions, including queries about their salaries and whether they could make ends meet.

Meanwhile, Baghdad was preparing to receive Blix and ElBaradei on Sunday to discuss the results of the inspections in the past six weeks.

The talks come a week before the international inspectors submit their report to the U.N Security Council on Jan. 27 on their findings during the inspections and Iraq's cooperation with the weapons experts.

Analysts said Blix and ElBaradei's talks in Baghdad were "very important" because they come amid growing U.S. threats to launch military operations against Iraq.

The Baghdad meeting also comes three days after the inspectors said they found a number of empty chemical warheads, which Iraq insisted were old and neglected.

Blix said in an interview Saturday on CNN that "to be fair, we must say that prompt access (to sites) has been OK." But simple acquiescence isn't enough, both chiefs agreed.

"Business as usual is not sufficient," said ElBaradei. "We need transparency and we're not getting transparency."

The empty warheads are not the proverbial smoking gun, but "they are indicative of a frame of mind that does not help," the IAEA chief said, adding their talks with Iraqi officials on Sunday were a "last-ditch effort" before their Jan. 27 report to achieve "active cooperation."

Outside the inspectors' headquarters Saturday, at al-Qanat Hotel in eastern Baghdad, hundreds of Iraqi journalists protested U.S. military deployments in the region and chanted anti-Israeli slogans. Some carried banners supporting President Saddam Hussein and others that said, "Inspectors everywhere, respect human rights."

Protest has followed the visit of an inspection team Thursday to the private homes of two scientists, Faleh Hassan Al Basri and Shakir Al Jabouri. Al Basri heads the Al Razi Company, which was founded by Iraq's Military Industrialization Commission, and was seen leaving with the inspectors with a box of documents and paperwork.

"We have gotten something like 3,000 pages of original documents, in Arabic, … that appear to be relevant to laser enrichment technology," ElBaradei told CNN Saturday, explaining it could be used for enriching uranium. "Why were these documents not provided to us? Why were they kept in a private home? Are there any others that we haven't seen?"

Addressing the accusation of intrusive inspections, Blix said, "If private homes were off bounds, they would be sanctuaries," and the Nov. 8 U.N. resolution declared that no sites in Iraq would be considered sanctuaries.

"And since we found documents in private homes, it showed inspectors need to be in them," he added, with ElBaradei emphasizing the team — consisting only of women as a courtesy to the ailing wife of one of the scientists — maintained professional standards during their inspections.

Blix and ElBaradei met in Cyprus on Saturday before proceeding to Baghdad.

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