- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 21, 2003

BAGHDAD U.N. weapons inspectors and Iraqi officials ended two days of talks yesterday with a 10-point agreement to make inspections more effective and try to answer questions about what happened to huge stocks of chemical and biological weapons.
Responding to U.S. criticism, the Iraqis agreed to encourage weapons scientists to submit to private interviews with U.N. inspectors and promised to search their stocks for more chemical warheads like the 16 empty ones found in two Iraqi locations in recent days.
The agreement comes a week before the chief inspectors are to deliver a report on their hunt for biological, chemical and nuclear weapons in Iraq, which resumed in November. The inspectors are pressing for an extension of the search, even as the United States and Britain the chief proponents of military action say time is running out.
Britain announced yesterday it was sending 26,000 troops, one-quarter of its army, to the Persian Gulf. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw warned that Iraq was running out of time to comply with U.N. disarmament demands.
Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, held talks with Turkish generals in Ankara yesterday amid reports of U.S. frustration with Turkey's reluctance to let the United States use its bases for a northern thrust into Iraq.
Chief weapons inspector Hans Blix and U.N. nuclear weapons chief Mohamed ElBaradei flew to Baghdad Sunday, seeking greater Iraqi cooperation.
"We still need some time" for inspections, Mr. ElBaradei said.
The demand for private interviews with weapons scientists had been a key one for the inspectors. Under the new agreement, Iraq also promised to expand a list of such prospective witnesses provided to the United Nations.
No arrangements were announced for taking specialists abroad for questioning, as sought by the U.S. government. But Mr. Blix said last night in Athens that it was likely the interviews would be held soon in Cyprus.
"It is entirely up to the scientist himself if he is willing to leave his country," Iraqi presidential adviser Lt. Gen. Amir al-Saadi said.
The United States has repeatedly said it has evidence that Saddam's government harbors weapons of mass destruction. Washington has threatened war if Iraq, in its view, does not disarm. Baghdad insists it no longer holds such weapons.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer dismissed Baghdad's statement in private interviews yesterday, saying, "We're only interested in action."
But Gen. al-Saadi, Saddam's top science adviser, called the two days of talks with Mr. Blix and Mr. ElBaradei "very constructive and positive."
The teams of U.N. inspectors, meanwhile, continued their daily, unannounced rounds.


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