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Iraq gives names of scientists to U.N. inspectors

U.N. weapons inspectors arrive at a plant south of Baghdad Saturday.
U.N. weapons inspectors arrive at a plant south of Baghdad Saturday.

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraq gave United Nations weapons inspectors a list of more than 500 scientists associated with its weapons programs, a spokesman for the inspectors said Saturday.

Hiro Ueki said U.N. Monitoring and Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) chief Hans Blix had requested the list in a letter sent to the Iraqis on December 12. The deadline to come up with the list was December 31.

"Today we have received from the Iraqi national monitoring directorate a list of names of those associated with chemical, biological and nuclear and ballistic weapons," the spokesman said at a press briefing in Baghdad. "The list contains over 500 names."

On Friday, inspectors interviewed a scientist -- who later said on Iraqi television that Iraq had no nuclear program -- about a "possible prelude to a clandestine nuclear program," a spokesman for the inspectors said.

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A team of missile experts went to Al-Qa'qa Saturday, a site listed by British intelligence officials as a chemical complex that may be producing phosgene, which can be used as a chemical agent.

The facility -- located in al-Latifiya near Baghdad -- was severely damaged in the 1991 Persian Gulf War but has been repaired and is operational, according to a British white paper released on Iraq in September.

Other inspection teams fanned out across Baghdad, visiting a variety of sites as part of the United Nations' search for evidence that Iraq is developing a nuclear or biological weapons program.

Biological weapons inspectors headed to the Al-Kindi facility in Abu Greb and the Yafa Juice Company in Za'faraniya.

Hiro Ueki, a spokesman for the U.N. weapons inspectors
Hiro Ueki, a spokesman for the U.N. weapons inspectors

Another UNMOVIC team searched a private import-export business, Al-Najah.

After arms monitors interviewed the Iraqi scientist, Qadhem Mijbil, on Friday, he appeared in a news conference Saturday on Iraqi television, distancing himself from the country's past nuclear program.

"We don't have a nuclear program by the way, now, it's a past program, but really I don't know what kind of materials could be used in the nuclear program," he said.

Qadhem is a metallurgist from al-Raya, a well-known state company that is part of Iraq's Military Industrialization Commission, according to the Iraqi foreign ministry.

The scientist specializes in the use of aluminum pipes used to make missiles with a range of 10 kilometers (6 miles), according to the ministry, however Britain has accused Iraq of using the pipes in the process of producing depleted uranium.

Qadhem said he did not know the nuclear uses for the aluminum pipes.

"I'm a scientist and I don't respond to questions about intelligence, I can only talk about scientific issues," he said.

Iraq has admitted to previous efforts to obtain nuclear weapons, but insists it has no weapons of mass destruction programs now.

"Dr. Qadhem, with all due respect, has absolutely no relation with proscribed past programs," Gen. Hossam Amin, the head of Iraq's National Monitoring Directorate, told state television Friday.

Qadhem said a representative of the National Monitoring Directorate was present for the interview -- something he insisted his colleagues also request, as he did, if they are interviewed by the inspectors.

The inspectors are under U.S. pressure to take scientists and their families out of Iraq for the interviews. U.S. officials have said they believe the scientists would speak more freely if they were assured that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein could not retaliate.

The IAEA began interviewing scientists this week. The U.N. Monitoring and Verification and Inspection Commission, which is searching Iraq for evidence of chemical or biological weapons or high-powered missiles, has not yet conducted such interviews.

A U.N. official said several issues need to be worked out before that can be done, including arrangements for secure interview facilities.

U.S. readies carriers for Gulf duty

Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy has been told to prepare two aircraft carriers for deployment to the Persian Gulf after New Year's Day, naval officials told CNN on Friday.

A "prepare to deploy" order has been issued for a carrier to move from both the East Coast and the West Coast. (Full story)

President Bush has threatened possible U.S.-led military action against Iraq if it refuses to abide by United Nations resolutions calling for it to disarm itself of alleged weapons of mass destruction.

On December 7 Iraq delivered to U.N. weapons inspectors 11,000-pages of what Baghdad said were details of its weapons of mass destruction programs and possible facilities that might be used to develop them.

U.N. Resolution 1441 -- passed unanimously by the U.N. Security Council on November 8 -- demanded the Iraqi documents be handed over by December 8.

The resolution also called on Iraq to abide by all the U.N. resolutions that Iraq promised to follow in a ceasefire agreement reached after it lost the Gulf War.

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