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Iraqi warheads and tougher talk

'Very dangerous' says Blix

A U.N. weapons inspector hands over an Iraqi warhead to be examined.

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Iraq's director of monitoring claims the empty chemical warheads are leftover from 1996 U.N. inspections. CNN's Rym Brahimi reports (January 16)
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Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix said Iraq must be proactive and produce evidence that it is no longer producing weapons of mass destruction. (January 16)
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- As U.N. weapons inspections in Iraq entered a new level Thursday, one team discovered empty chemical warheads and international officials began talking tougher about Iraq's responsibility to be more forthcoming about its disarmament efforts in order to avoid a possible military confrontation.

In another milestone Thursday, U.N. inspectors paid their first-ever visit to the private homes of Iraqi scientists as part of the hunt for evidence of weapons of mass destruction. The homes were not listed as declared sites by Iraq, suggesting that inspectors may be working on an intelligence tip. (Full Story, On the scene)

About 150 kilometers (93 miles) southwest of Baghdad, another team of arms inspectors found 11 empty chemical warheads and another one that needed further evaluation at the Ukhaider ammunition storage area, according to a U.N. spokesman, who said they were all in "excellent condition."

Dimitri Perricos, leader of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, or UNMOVIC, said the find may not be a "smoking gun" that indicates Iraq had violated U.N. resolutions.

The chemical warheads the inspectors found were on 122 mm rockets similar to ones imported by Iraq during the late 1980s, the spokesman said.

The UNMOVIC team used portable X-ray equipment to analyze one of the warheads and collected samples for chemical testing. (Full story)

Hossam Amin, head of Iraq's National Monitoring Directorate, dismissed any allegation that the find is significant, calling the material "forgotten."

"It is neither chemical, neither biological," Amin said. "It is empty warheads. It is small artillery rockets. It is expired rockets. They were forgotten without any intention to use them, because they were expired since 10 years ago."

He added that "this type of rockets were declared in 1996 and again in the new declaration."

Although the United States has long disputed Iraqi declarations that it has disarmed, the White House took a wait-and-see approach to Thursday's discovery. (Full story)

"Very dangerous" was how Chief U.N. inspector Hans Blix described the situation in Iraq as he announced Thursday that Baghdad had illegally imported arms-related material to the country. He said it is not yet clear if the material is related to weapons of mass destruction which Iraq is prohibited from possessing or manufacturing.

Blix, who spoke bluntly at a briefing with reporters after meeting with European Union officials in Belgium, said Iraq has to be more active in addressing the concerns of the United Nations and the inspectors. An alternative to cooperation, he indicated, would be the specter of military confrontation.(Full story)

EU Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana used similar rhetoric, calling for a "more proactive contribution" from Saddam's regime so that the world, the inspectors, the [U.N.] Security Council is convinced that he has disarmed from all weapons of mass destruction."

Meanwhile, Time magazine, quoting well-placed sources, reported Thursday that Saudi Arabia was pursuing a plan to engineer a U.N.-sanctioned plot for Iraqi generals to overthrow President Saddam Hussein.

A U.N. resolution would declare amnesty for most Iraqi officials if they helped with a transition of power in Baghdad, the magazine reported.

The report said that Arab diplomats believe the elite Iraqi Republican Guard would turn against Saddam and that he would not accept exile. (Full story)

In another effort to avert a possible war, Turkey announced Thursday it will invite ministers from five countries -- Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Syria -- to attend a meeting to discuss ways to peacefully resolve the Iraqi crisis. (Full story)

CNN Correspondent John King and CNN Moscow Bureau Chief Jill Dougherty contributed to this report.

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