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Iraqi scientists refuse private U.N. talks

One meets with inspectors in presence of Iraqi monitors

The Iraqi man who stopped and entered a U.N. vehicle is dragged away.
The Iraqi man who stopped and entered a U.N. vehicle is dragged away.

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Two days before U.N. weapons inspectors are to report their progress to the Security Council, they were unable to persuade three Iraqi scientists to meet with them privately Saturday, Iraqi officials said.

One of the scientists later met with U.N. inspectors in the presence of Iraqi monitors, officials said. No details of that meeting were released.

The inspectors believe Iraqi scientists who know about possible weapons programs aren't candid when questioned beside government monitors.

Iraqi officials said they have encouraged the scientists to meet privately with inspectors but, so far, every scientist has asked that government representatives be present.

In response, a White House spokesman referred to press secretary Ari Fleischer's comments Friday: "President Bush believes that Iraq's refusal to allow Iraqi scientists to submit to private interviews with U.N. inspectors is unacceptable. Under U.N. Resolution 1441, Iraq has an obligation to comply."

Resolution 1441, adopted unanimously by the Security Council in November, calls on Iraq to declare all weapons of mass destruction programs within its borders.

Fleischer added, "This is not a matter for negotiation. This is not a matter for debate. Saddam Hussein has no choice."

On Monday, chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei of the International Atomic Energy Agency are scheduled to report on the progress of Iraq's compliance with Resolution 1441.

Earlier Saturday, two Iraqi men breached security near the Baghdad hotel that serves as the U.N. monitors' headquarters.

According to the United Nations, one man approached the hotel's security gate with a metal instrument before Iraqi guards wrestled him to the ground. He was found to have three knives, the United Nations said.

About 40 minutes later, another Iraqi man stopped a U.N. vehicle outside the headquarters, pleading "Save me! Save me!" in Arabic, according to the United Nations.

The man, apparently unarmed, forced his way into the driver's seat of the stopped vehicle. As an Iraqi guard struggled to pull him out, a U.N. inspector watched from the passenger seat.

Iraqi officials took both men into custody.

The man who entered the U.N. vehicle complained that he had been 'unfairly treated.'
The man who entered the U.N. vehicle complained that he had been 'unfairly treated.'

Last weekend, inspectors interviewed an Iraqi scientist in his home, where they found thousands of pages of documents that could apply to enriching uranium.

Physicist Faleh Hassan Al Basri complained the inspectors mistreated his wife and resorted to "mafia-like" tactics. The inspectors denied the accusations.

The inspectors have asked to take Iraqi scientists and their families out of Iraq for interviews.

Teams from the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission and the IAEA visited several sites Saturday, the agencies said in a joint statement.

They inspected the Sumaykah surface-to-surface missile facility northwest of Baghdad; the al QaQaa military complex southwest of Baghdad; the colleges of veterinary medicine and education at Quadisiyah University, south of Baghdad; the colleges of education and engineering in Tiklit; and a storage site at the North Oil Co. in Mosul.

-- White House correspondent Dana Bash and State Department producer Elise Labott contributed to this report.


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