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Inspectors say Iraq equipment missing

Nuclear weapons inspectors visit a military base Sunday north of Baghdad.
Nuclear weapons inspectors visit a military base Sunday north of Baghdad.

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CNN's Christiane Amanpour talks to chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix.
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CNN's Nic Robertson has the latest on U.N. weapons inspections in Iraq (December 2)
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•  Commanders: U.S. | Iraq
•  Weapons: 3D Models
Deadlines for steps Iraq must take to be in full compliance with U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441:
December 8: Iraq must provide a "currently accurate, full and complete declaration" of any weapons of mass destruction program.
On or before January 27: Inspectors must report back to the Security Council.

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- U.N. weapons inspections in Iraq hit a snag Monday when a search of a military-industrial complex near the heart of Baghdad revealed that equipment tagged by previous inspectors was missing.

Weapons inspectors in 1996 used numbered stickers to tag the equipment, which could have dual use in weapons production or civilian work, to be able to track it.

"None of these are currently present at the facility," said Hiro Ueki, a spokesman for the current inspection team. "It was claimed that some had been destroyed by the bombing of the site; some had been transferred to other sites."

The inspectors asked Iraqi officials if they can see the equipment elsewhere.

Some cameras left to monitor the Al Karama General Co. complex also could not be found, a U.N. statement said on the fifth day of the round of inspections, which resumed Wednesday.

U.N. missile, biological and chemical experts spent six hours at the military-industrial complex, which is surrounded by high walls topped with barbed wire and military guard posts.

The complex -- described by the United Nations as a principal missile development facility -- was a target of coalition airstrikes that marked the end of the last round of inspections four years ago. Iraqi officials said 18 missiles hit the site in 1998.

U.N. Security Council resolution 1441, passed November 8, demands Iraq give up any nuclear, chemical or biological weapons efforts or face serious consequences. Iraq, which denies it has such weapons, has pledged full cooperation with the inspectors.

President Bush, who has said the United States will act to disarm Iraq if diplomatic efforts fail, told U.S. military leaders Monday he was not encouraged by what he called Iraq's general lack of cooperation since the inspections resumed.

"The inspectors are not in Iraq to play hide and seek with Mr. Saddam Hussein," Bush said in remarks at a White House signing ceremony for a $355 billion defense spending bill for 2003.

"Inspectors do not have the duty or the ability to uncover terrible weapons hidden in a vast country. The responsibility of inspectors is to simply confirm the evidence of voluntary and total disarmament." (Full story)

U.N. inspectors said they believe the al-Kamarah complex was used in the 1990s to produce parts for a variant of the Scud missile, one capable of going 400 miles.

Iraq is allowed to have only missiles with a range of less than 90 miles. Al-Kamarah still produces short-range missiles, the site director said.

Iraqi officials at the site said inspectors in Monday's tour were given full access to the facility and went through documents there.

Another team of inspectors visited three alcohol-producing factories Monday, marking the first time two of those plants had come under U.N. scrutiny.

Alcohol can be used to make chemical weapons, but it was not immediately clear why the factories were chosen.

Aluminum tube admissions

Meanwhile, Iraqi officials told U.N. inspectors they tried to buy aluminum tubes to use in building conventional rockets.

According to a high-ranking official close to the U.N. inspectors, the Iraqis said they were unsuccessful and denied the type of aluminum tubes could be used in a nuclear weapons program.

The United States said previously that Iraq was trying to get aluminum tubes to use in its nuclear weapons program. Any attempt by Iraq to import materials that can be used for weapons would be considered a violation of the U.N. sanctions regime.

The high-ranking official, who was at meetings in Baghdad with Iraqi counterparts November 19 to re-launch the inspections, said Iraqi officials disclosed to the chief U.N. weapons inspectors the diameter and thickness of the tubes.

Arms experts said if the tubes are of the size Iraq claims, they could not be used for centrifuges for enriching uranium.

"They're saying that they violated the sanctions, which is a much lesser offense than if they had been trying to build nuclear weapons or long-range missiles," former CIA analyst Ken Pollack told CNN.

"What they are trying to do is to basically plead guilty to the lesser charge in hopes that will make it much harder for the United States to use that to build international support for a war."

The weapons inspectors expect a more complete accounting in the declaration Iraq must make to the United Nations on its weapons on December 8.

"That declaration must be credible and complete. Or the Iraqi dictator will have demonstrated to the world once again that he has chosen not to change his behavior," Bush said at the signing ceremony.

Analysts said U.N. weapons inspectors will need to see the tubes and talk to their suppliers to determine whether they could be used to produce nuclear weapons.

The revelation came as Britain's Foreign Secretary Jack Straw unveiled a dossier accusing Iraqi leader Saddam of masterminding widespread and "horrific" human rights abuses. (Full story)

No-fly zone attacks denounced

In a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri denounced repeated air raids by coalition aircraft in the no-fly zones as state terrorism and said Iraq would always defend itself.

"The raids by American and British planes on Iraq cities and villages and the infrastructure of the Republic of Iraq ... is state terrorism, wanton aggression and rude interference in Iraq's internal affairs," the letter said.

Reports from the Iraqi state-run news agency said four people were killed and 27 wounded in attacks Monday in the southern port of Basra.

The U.S. military insisted its planes launched "precision-guided" weapons at Iraqi air defenses and that as always they took pains to avoid hitting civilians.

The no-fly zones, designed to protect Kurds in northern Iraq and Shiites in the southern part of the country from the Iraqi regime, have been a focus of contention between the U.S.-British coalition and Iraq since they were established after the Persian Gulf War in 1991 -- without a specific U.N. resolution.

CNN correspondents Christiane Amanpour, Rym Brahimi and Nic Robertson contributed to this report.

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