U.N. Weapons Inspectors Visit Baghdad University Labs

Published December 17, 2002

| Associated Press

U.N. inspectors swept through Baghdad University Tuesday, collecting names of scientists and disrupting some classes to gain information about their research.

It was the inspectors' second visit in as many days to the school, as they comb the country under a U.N. mandate to verify whether Iraq has eliminated its weapons of mass destruction.

The Institute for Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering was listed as a relevent site by Iraq in its declaration on armaments given to the United Nations earlier this month. Inspectors fanned out through the Department of Biotechnology on Tuesday. As usual, reporters were not permitted to follow.

"They inquired about some scientists, researchers and professors in the department and took their names, specialties and (information about) the research they are doing," said the head of the biotechnology department, Lamees Gregor.

He said some classes were interrupted so inspectors could question professors and enter their laboratories. "It was a normal visit, there were no provocations," he said.

University security officials confiscated the videotapes of three TV news cameramen who had been at the school for another event but managed to film the inspectors. The officials said the inspectors complained.

The mandate from the Security Council gives the inspectors the right to interview scientists inside or outside Iraq, with or without the presence of Iraqi observers.

U.N. chief weapons inspector Hans Blix has requested Iraq hand over a list of former and current employees who have worked on programs for chemical and biological weapons and ballistic missiles. The document is due by the end of December.

"I understand they are working on it," U.N. spokesman Hiro Ueki said Tuesday.

Since the current inspections began Nov. 27, after a four-year gap, the inspectors have searched 80 sites and conducted 100 inspections, sometimes inspecting the same site more than once, Ueki said.

"Inspectors were able to get access and complete inspections" except on Friday, Ueki said.

On Friday, the inspectors were denied access to three locked rooms in a Baghdad vaccine plant because the people with the keys were unavailable on the Muslim sabbath. Ueki said more inspectors were due Tuesday to join the 105 inspectors already in Iraq.

Iraq Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan said Tuesday the inspectors were conducting themselves professionally.

"If they continue to work this way, they will get full cooperation from us," he said in an interview with the Lebanese television channel, LBC.

Other inspection teams on Tuesday visited the Oxidizer Production Plant, 30 miles northwest of Baghdad, and the Al-Ameen Factory. The oxidizer plant produces fuel for missiles and the factory makes the casings for motors and nozzles of missiles.

Baghdad says it has eliminated all of its weapons of mass destruction, but the United States and Britain claim otherwise, and the Bush administration has threatened to attack Iraq unless it cooperates fully with the U.N. disarmament process.

A team of peace activists landed in Baghdad on Tuesday, led by the Nobel laureate Betty Williams. The team brought 12 tons of donated medicine, food, clothes and blankets for a Baghdad children's hospital and the Iraqi Red Crescent society.

Williams, who shared the 1976 Nobel Peace prize with Mairead Corrigan for founding a Protestant-Catholic peace movement in Northern Ireland, said on arrival: "I say to Americans what I say to the Iraqis: Children don't know wars. Children don't declare wars. Children (get) caught up in wars and die in wars."

She later toured a children's hospital and met Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Defense Department has launched a propaganda radio for Iraq, broadcasting messages aimed at weakening support for President Saddam Hussein among his people and armed forces.

U.S. defense officials said American planes flying outside the country would broadcast the service for five hours a night -- the first such transmissions since the 1991 Gulf War when the United States led a coalition of forces that drove the Iraqi army out of Kuwait.

The Iraqi military said that U.S. and British warplanes had violated the airspace of southern Iraq on Tuesday, the official Iraqi News Agency reported.

The allied planes maintain a no-fly zone over southern Iraq to protect Muslim Shiites from Baghdad forces. Iraq does not recognize the zone.

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