Iraqi Scientist Interviewed Privately

U.N. weapons inspectors have conducted a private interview with an Iraqi biologist, the first such interview since Feb. 7, the inspectors said Saturday.

Inspectors' spokesman Hiro Ueki said the interview took place Friday evening.

The interviews have been a key demand of the U.N. weapons inspectors, who believe them necessary to verify whether Iraq, as it claims, has eliminated its weapons of mass destruction.

Most scientists had refused to grant unsupervised interviews without recording the conversations, a condition the inspectors rejected because they believe the scientists will speak less candidly if they know their government can review their statements.

Ueki did not give the specific conditions of the interview, but said it was "private," a term the United Nations has used to mean the session was not taped.

A team of U.N. inspectors investigating Iraq's nuclear program have been conducting interviews, but they have allowed the scientists to record them. Chemical, biological and weapons teams have refused to allow recordings.

Three non-nuclear interviews were conducted on Feb. 6 and Feb. 7 but since then, no scientist had agreed to an interview under the U.N. terms.

Also Saturday, Iraq was expected to begin destroying its Al Samoud 2 missiles, another key demand of the inspectors.

The United States and Britain have threatened war if they are not convinced Iraq is cooperating with the inspectors.