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S P E C I A L: The Standoff with Iraq

U.N.'s top weapons inspector arrives in Iraq

December 12, 1997
Web posted at: 10:40 a.m. EST (1540 GMT)

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The United Nations' top weapons inspector arrived in Iraq on Friday for a five-day visit, during which he is expected to concentrate on getting his inspectors access to Baghdad's "sensitive sites."

Richard Butler, chairman of the U.N. Special Commission (UNSCOM) is due to meet with weapons inspectors on Friday and Saturday, before meeting with Iraqi officials on Sunday and Monday.

Butler is making his first visit to Iraq since last month's crisis over the expulsion of American members of the U.N. weapons inspection team. Inspections resumed November 22.

Butler arrived to a critical Iraqi press. One newspaper labeled him "Mad Dog" Butler, and a columnist accused him of acting as a representative of President Clinton.

"Butler is behaving as if he is a minister or adviser in the administration of Clinton," wrote columnist Sabri Hammadi in Al-Thawra, the newspaper of the ruling Baath Party. "He lies like they lie, and speaks from a position of flagrant hostility to Iraq like they do."

"We sincerely hope that Mr. Butler remembers that in fact he is head of the U.N. Special Commission, and not an adviser to the Clinton administration, and that he remembers the limits of his position and does not violate them in the future," the newspaper said.

One of the many presidential palaces   

The UNSCOM inspectors are charged with making sure Iraq has destroyed its entire cache of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Once the inspectors give Iraq a clean bill of health, the U.N. Security Council will consider lifting the sanctions imposed on Iraq following its invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

Iraq claims it has no banned weapons, but U.S. officials have repeatedly said Iraq could be hiding them. It has been suggested the weapons could be stashed away in dozens of Saddam Hussein's presidential palaces. Iraq maintains it won't allow the weapons inspectors into the palaces, and that the UNSCOM inspectors don't have a mandate giving them access to the areas.

"Presidential sites are totally forbidden for UNSCOM. Absolutely. It's a red line. Totally," Iraqi Oil Minister Amir Muhammad Rasheed said earlier this week.

During a stopover in Europe on his way to Iraq, Butler told reporters: "We can't work that way...We'll be talking about getting access in a way which shows respect for Iraqi security."

Butler, who did not speak to reporters upon his arrival in Baghdad, is also expected to talk to Iraqi officials about their biological warfare program, their production of deadly VX nerve gas and unaccounted for missile warheads.

At least seven other weapons experts are in Butler's delegation, including two Russians, two Britons, one Argentinean, a German, and one other U.S. citizen. The Iraqis have complained in the past that the U.N. inspection teams are dominated by Americans.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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