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  • Iraq Special Report
  •   No Weapons Found at Iraqi Sites, Report Says

    By John M. Goshko
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Wednesday, April 15, 1998; Page A10

    UNITED NATIONS, April 14—A report by U.N. experts says the first inspection of formerly off-limits Iraqi presidential buildings revealed no sign of prohibited weapon systems but warns that attempts at further inspections could encounter Iraqi resistance, U.N. sources said tonight.

    An annex to the report, also described by the sources, cites statements by Iraqi officials that they do not regard the United Nations' right to search the buildings as open-ended and hints that Iraq might now take the position that it has met its obligations toward U.N. inspections. If so, that could lead to a renewal of the recent tensions that spawned a crisis in which the United States threatened to bomb suspect sites in Iraq.

    These are the main points of the report detailing the findings of inspections that were carried out at eight presidential sites in various parts of Iraq between March 26 and April 3, the sources said. The inspections followed a four-month confrontation over President Saddam Hussein's refusal to give the United Nations access to the palaces and subsequent U.S. threats of air and missile strikes against Iraq.

    The crisis was defused, at least temporarily, when Secretary General Kofi Annan went to Baghdad and negotiated with Saddam Hussein an agreement for U.N. inspectors to search the palaces and other sites accompanied by diplomats under the direction of Jayantha Dhanapala, undersecretary general for disarmament affairs. Dhanapala's secret report was sent to Annan today. The sources said they tentatively expect it to be forwarded to the Security Council on Wednesday.

    Richard Butler, head of the U.N. Special Commission (UNSCOM) charged with eliminating Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, already has said that the searches by teams of UNSCOM inspectors and diplomats turned up no evidence of secret Iraqi nuclear, chemical or biological weapons programs. That point is spelled out in greater detail in the report, the sources said.

    However, the sources added, the report notes that UNSCOM expected that result since Iraq had several weeks during the standoff with the United Nations to remove any incriminating material or documents from the palaces and their subsidiary buildings.

    Butler and other officials had said their main aim in the first round of inspections was twofold: to establish the principle that UNSCOM has the right under its mandate from the Security Council to search the presidential sites, and to get a baseline idea of the size and nature of these buildings to aid future inspections. In that respect, the report says, the initial inspections were regarded as successful.

    More ominous, the sources said, is an annex to the report written by Charles Duelfer, the deputy head of UNSCOM, which describes hints of a possible future return to obstruction tactics by the Iraqis.

    Although UNSCOM officials have said the Iraqis generally were cooperative during the searches, the annex, as described by the sources, cites several instances when Iraqi officials objected strongly to the inspectors taking photographs inside the palaces and surveying them with overhead helicopter flights. The report says the Iraqis relented in their objections only after the inspectors made clear they would not budge on these points.

    In addition, the sources said, the Iraqis indicated at various times to the inspectors that they understand the agreement with the United Nations to be of limited duration. Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz has said that his government was permitting the now completed round of inspections to prove its contention that Iraq no longer has any prohibited weapons and should be freed of the burden of U.N. economic sanctions.

    However, UNSCOM says that it has considerably more work to do before it is able to piece together the whole story of Iraqi weapons programs. Accordingly, UNSCOM contends that the agreement between Saddam Hussein and Annan gives the United Nations the power to keep conducting inspections for as long as it believes necessary. Annan also has said that is his interpretation of the agreement.

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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