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IRAQ - Dec. 24 - Baghdad Shows First Signs Of Defiance.

Baghdad officials show the first signs that they are unwilling to co-operate with UN weapons inspectors, saying they do not think that scientists and engineers who worked on the nuclear, chemical and biological arms programmes should be taken out of the country to be questioned by UN officials. (UN disarmament resolution 1441 requires Baghdad to allow such interviews, and the US has put a high premium on what they might disclose. The US insists that inspections alone are an impractical way of discovering the true status of the weapons programme. Any sign Iraq is not complying fully with the UN resolution could bring war closer, since 1441 requires the UN to find that Baghdad is both lying and not co-operating for it to be in full breach. Washington thinks that interviews conducted outside Iraq, and possibly taking scientists' families from the country too, are necessary to obtain truthful information without threat of reprisals). The official in charge of relations with the UN team Gen. Hussam Mohammad Amin tells a news conference: "We are concerned with moving scientists abroad. We don't think it's necessary". Amin says Baghdad will provide the UN with a list of scientists and engineers involved with the programme by the weekend [Dec. 28-29]. The first such interview, with a former engineer in the nuclear programme, took place this week with a government representative present. Amin said the engineer, Sabah Abdel-Nour, had wanted the Iraqi representative to be present. "He wanted someone else to be present during the interview for his own protection". Mark Gwozdecky, of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said the presence of a minder did not qualify as non-co-operation. However, UN inspectors have the power to insist on interviews without the presence of government representatives. Gwozdecky said: "We asked him [the engineer] whether he would be more comfortable with someone accompanying him. That's something we'll do from time to time, [although] not something we'll do as a matter of routine". He added that Baghdad had not said it would refuse to co-operate on interviewing scientists outside Iraq. Amin said inspectors had visited 188 sites including 32 facilities not previously inspected. He also said that accusations by Israeli PM Ariel Sharon that Baghdad may be transferring chemical and biological weapons to neighbouring Syria was a "baseless lie".
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Publication:APS Diplomat Recorder
Geographic Code:7IRAQ
Date:Dec 31, 2002
Words:381
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