UNITED NATIONS – Iraqi security agents have bugged every room and telephone of the U.N. weapons inspectors based in Baghdad and have hidden documents in Iraqi hospitals, mosques and homes, a new British report says.
The intelligence officers outnumber the inspectors 20,000 to 108 and are "engaged in disrupting their inspections," said the 18-page British government report released here on Monday.
The British dossier follows U.S. and British claims that Iraq has failed to cooperate fully with U.N. weapons inspectors and has hidden weapons of mass destruction. It draws on intelligence and other sources but does not contain any supporting documentation to back its claims.
In November, when the new inspection teams arrived, they spent several days "debugging" and sweeping their offices for other surveillance equipment.
Iraq maintains that it is cooperating with the inspectors. In the Canadian Broadcasting Corp interview last week, Iraq's deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz, said Iraq would continue to do so in the future. "All other aspects of cooperation have been met and we promise to be more forthcoming in the future replying to all their needs in (a) way that will satisfy them," he said.
Nevertheless, top U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix told the Security Council in a report last week that Iraq has failed to fully cooperate. He said that Iraq was good on access but weak on substance.
The British report said that the Iraqis have installed surveillance equipment in the hotels and offices used by the experts. "All their meetings are monitored, their relationships observed, their conversations listened to."
Iraqi officials, the dossier said, had hidden prohibited items and documents in homes and beneath hospitals and mosques.
From the moment, the U.N. experts enter Iraq, their every movement is monitored, it said.
"They are escorted by seemingly helpful security guards and almost all of them are members of the Al-Mukhabarat (intelligence agency). If the drivers is an Iraqi, he is Al-Mukhabarat too."
Journeys to suspected weapons sites are monitored by security officers along the route, and any change of destination is telephoned or radioed ahead --"so that arrival is anticipated," the dossier says.
Lt. Gen. Hossam Mohammed Amin, the chief Iraqi liaison officer with the inspectors, conceded there can be friction.
"The inspection process has been carried out sometimes in a way that is almost aggressive and has sometimes led to the freezing of the movement of people or vehicles," said Amin.