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Rym Brahimi: U.N. visits to Iraqi homes a first

CNN's Rym Brahimi
CNN's Rym Brahimi

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- For the first time since they returned to Iraq two months ago, U.N. weapons inspectors Thursday visited private homes in their search for evidence of weapons of mass destruction.

The two homes, owned by scientists, are in Baghdad's Al-Ghazaliyah district and are not listed as declared sites by Iraq, suggesting that inspectors might have been working on an intelligence tip.

CNN Correspondent Rym Brahimi was at the scene and spoke about the day's events with CNN Anchor Leon Harris.

BRAHIMI: We were there from the beginning. The inspectors arrived in a neighborhood of Baghdad. They are breaking new ground. For the first time, they went into the private homes of Iraqi citizens. Those citizens [are] two Iraqi scientists -- one of them in the nuclear field, another one a physicist who works with Iraq's Military Industrialization Commission.

The two scientists came out, and one of them spoke with reporters. One of them actually, after a long discussion with the head of planning of the inspection teams, finally left his home with a stash of documents piled up in a box. In fact, the box was overflowing with documents.

He then went into one of the cars with the U.N. inspectors, and they drove off. This [was] six hours after the inspectors had arrived in the morning.

The other scientist, the nuclear scientist, then went out and spoke to reporters. He didn't go along with the inspectors, nor did he bring out any documents.

He just said that he was very unhappy. He thought this was extremely intrusive, provocative. He said they had searched every single room, including the bedrooms and the bathrooms. And he said that in the process his son had been prevented from attending exams because he couldn't leave his home.

HARRIS: Despite the fact that these inspectors have gone into the homes now of some of these scientists, [chief U.N. weapons inspector] Hans Blix is still saying that the Iraqis are not cooperating enough. What are you hearing there about how Iraq, or perhaps some of these scientists, are actually receiving these messages that more active cooperation is needed from Iraq to avoid a war here?

BRAHIMI: Iraqis feel very much that they have cooperated. In fact, they feel they have cooperated even more than required. They find these inspections extremely intrusive. And now with the first inspections into private homes, I expect to hear even more condemnation, even more criticism of the way these inspections have been conducted so far.

Iraq has said that it does want to cooperate because it wants to avert a war. And that's pretty much the view of a lot of people we speak to.

We spoke to a lot of people in this neighborhood, asking them what their reaction was. And they said, "Well of course, we have to let them in. We don't welcome them. We don't do it with happiness. We're not glad to have to welcome foreigners into our house like this. But we do it because we don't want to be responsible for a war. We don't want to attract any more troubles than there are already."


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