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Iraq admits moving key equipment

UN Iraq graphic

U.N. weapons inspectors turned back for 4th day

November 6, 1997
Web posted at: 7:53 a.m. EST (1253 GMT)

Latest developments:

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraq turned back U.N. weapons inspection teams with American members for the fourth straight day Thursday, drawing U.N. warnings that they were in "clear violation" of the 1991 cease-fire agreement that ended the Gulf War.

Thursday's confrontation follows U.N. reports that the Iraqis were taking advantage of a halt in weapons inspections to disable surveillance equipment and hide key equipment at suspected arms sites.

Former U.S. President George Bush spoke with CNN about the situation in Iraq
icon 2 min. VXtreme video

Iraq admitted in a letter to the U.N. Security Council that it was moving equipment at a range of sites, CNN has learned. Iraq wrote that it was preparing for what it called U.S.-led military aggression and wanted the machinery out of harm's way.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf on Thursday described the movement of equipment as temporary and said it would not be used in any prohibited way.

"We are going to put the equipment back to its previous positions...and we will invite U.N. monitoring teams to see it and be sure about it," he said.

The letter and the blocking of the U.N. inspectors were revealed as envoys from U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan opened a third round of meetings with officials in Baghdad to defuse the crisis.

icon Correspondent Brent Sadler reports from Baghdad
Interference with U.N. surveillance cameras
(238 K / 21 sec. audio)

Letter gives reasons for moving equipment
(323 K / 26 sec. audio)

Iraq: Inspectors welcome, but not Americans
(255 K / 22 sec. audio)

Diplomatic sources told CNN that up to now the talks had not yielded positive results. The sources also expressed fears that military action seemed likely unless the Iraqi position changes.

According to these sources, the Iraqis used the discussions to renew their grievances about the conduct of U.S. inspectors attached to the U.N. arms team, and had given no indication that Baghdad was prepared to comply in any way with what the Security Council is demanding.

After two sessions Wednesday, the talks resumed Thursday, the Iraqi news agency INA reported. The U.N. delegation is expected to hold a press briefing Thursday afternoon Baghdad time.

Inspectors blocked


As the talks resumed Thursday, Iraqi officials turned away three teams of weapons inspectors that included Americans from three different sites. Iraq last week announced it would expel all American inspectors, accusing them of spying.

A team of missile experts, including biological warfare and chemical weapons specialists, were blocked from entering three separate sites, according to U.N. weapons inspection program spokesman Alan Dacey. Dacey said the teams were told they could proceed only if the Americans left.

"Chiefs of inspection teams informed the Iraqi authorities that what they are doing is considered a clear violation of the (Gulf War) cease-fire agreements and they ordered their teams to return to their headquarters," Dacey said in a written statement.

The move comes one day after Richard Butler, the U.N.'s chief weapons inspector, accused the Iraqis of tampering with surveillance hardware and hiding equipment that could be used to make chemical or biological weapons.

Under the cease-fire that ended the Gulf War in 1991, Iraq is required to submit to inspections to verify that it has destroyed its missiles and weapons of mass destruction. In recent weeks, Iraq's refusal to allow American inspectors access to weapons facilities has led to a standoff with the U.N.

Correspondents Ben Wedeman and Brent Sadler contributed to this report.

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