U.N. arms inspectors return to Iraq
November 21, 1997
Web posted at: 5:22 a.m. EST (1022 GMT)
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- U.N. weapons inspectors arrived in
Iraq to resume their work Friday, less than 24 hours after
Baghdad backed down from its earlier refusal to let inspections begin with American participation.
The first team to arrive included a small number of Americans.
The inspectors came from Bahrain following a two-hour flight
aboard a charter aircraft. The plane arrived at Habaniya air
base, 75 miles (120 km) west of Baghdad, around noon.
U.N. officials said the inspectors would resume their attempts of ridding Iraq of suspected weapons of mass destruction as soon as possible.
The arrival of the inspectors comes after a three-week
standoff that began when Baghdad ordered American inspectors
to leave the country. When the Americans were expelled on November 13, the United Nations pulled all of its weapons teams, except for a skeleton crew of 19.
On Thursday, prodded by his old ally Russia, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein agreed to allow U.S. arms inspectors back into the country.
Iraq said it reversed its ban on the Americans following
Russia's assurance that it will work for the lifting of U.N.
economic sanctions on the country.
U.S. builds military presence
As the inspectors began arriving Friday, the United States continued its military buildup in the Gulf.
The aircraft carrier USS George Washington arrived in the
Gulf before dawn Friday and six F-117 stealth fighters landed
in Kuwait to boost forces in the emirate.
"They will be there until there is full compliance," with
U.N. demands on weapons inspections, U.S. Defense Secretary
William Cohen said.
The Clinton administration has said the military presence will remain until it is clear Iraq is no longer a threat to its neighbors.
Iraq moved equipment from sites
Richard Butler, the chief U.N. weapons monitor, said in New York on Thursday he wants the U.N. inspectors to concentrate on Iraq's suspected stockpile of VX nerve gas and mustard gas.
The inspectors have long suspected that Iraq is hiding key
elements of its chemical and biological warfare programs, and
experts have said the standoff could have given Iraq enough time to mix small batches of chemical and biological weapons.
During the standoff, Iraq moved equipment away from some of the more than 100 U.N. cameras monitoring sites containing equipment that could be used to make chemical or biological weapons or long-range missiles. Obstructions were placed before other cameras.
The U.N. inspectors will need to verify whether any of the
monitored equipment was tampered with or used to make weapons.
Iraq has insisted that it has cooperated with the inspectors and has demanded an end to the U.N. sanctions imposed after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. U.N. diplomats have said they will not consider lifting the sanctions until Iraq fully cooperates with the arms inspectors.