Annan: Iraq Cooperating With Inspectors

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Tuesday that Iraq's cooperation with weapons inspectors has been good so far, and he praised the inspectors for using their authority to visit presidential palaces.

"There is a good indication that the Iraqis are cooperating, but this is only the beginning," Annan said. "They have to sustain the cooperation and effort ... and we will have to wait for the report of the inspectors."

Annan wouldn't comment on remarks from President Bush a day earlier that "the signs are not encouraging" about Saddam Hussein's willingness to disarm.

"The inspectors are not in Iraq to play hide-and-seek with Mr. Saddam Hussein," the president said Monday in his first extensive comment on the U.N. weapons inspections since they got under way last week.

Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix also said Tuesday that Iraq hasn't obstructed his teams but that Baghdad must provide "good explanations" for moving some equipment.

"I think we have started in the manner we expected and we have not had any impediments in the visits of plants," he told The Associated Press.

"Of course over a period of time, equipment can be moved but there must be some good explanations for it, and I'm sure that our people will inquire why was it moved and where was it moved," Blix said.

"If it were to be moved for some illicit purpose, then of course it would be more serious. But in the first case there was a fermenter which had been moved, and they showed where it was. And in other cases I hope that there are good explanations, but this has to be found out."

Annan wouldn't speculate as to when he expected Iraq to present a declaration of its chemical, biological and nuclear programs. Iraq must provide the declaration to the Security Council and inspectors by Sunday.

"I will wait for the inspectors to analyze it, and then brief the Council on its contents," Annan said.

U.N. weapons inspectors are charged with disarming Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs and long-range missiles to deliver them, During more than seven years of work before leaving in December 1998, inspectors tagged equipment which could have military and civilian use so it could be tracked.

Annan said he had not received a report yet from inspectors on their first week of work. But he was pleased they had gained access to all the sites they've targeted thus far, including a presidential palace which was visited Tuesday. Under the previous inspections regime, advance notice was required before inspectors could visit such sites.

"That is an indication that the inspectors are using their new authority effectively. They have the right to inspect and go anywhere and they have demonstrated that they are determined to use this new authority."