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S P E C I A L: Inspecting Iraq

Iraqi inspections proceed in 'normal' manner

Iraqi TV showed President Hussein visiting villagers in northern Iraq  

Saddam Hussein makes rare public appearance

March 7, 1998
Web posted at: 9:03 p.m. EST (0203 GMT)

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- U.N. weapons inspection teams, including one led by American Scott Ritter, were out and about again Saturday, keeping up their daily pace of visits to Iraqi installations.

The Iraqi News Agency said U.N. teams had visited a total of 12 sites. It said inspections "went ahead in a normal manner according to procedures agreed upon by the two sides."

This suggested that the inspectors could have been visiting so-called "sensitive sites," such as ministries and military or intelligence facilities, which require special procedures. The U.N. spokesman in Baghdad was not available for comment.

Media banned from covering inspections

International media were not able to cover the activities of the U.N. inspectors. Iraqi officials have banned coverage, even prohibiting journalists from filming teams' departures from their headquarters in Baghdad.

vxtreme CNN's Peter Humi reports

Keeping weapons inspectors out of the limelight appears to be the reason for the move.

Last year, Ritter was accused by the Iraqis of being a spy and was eventually forced to leave the country. He returned this week for the first time since the United Nations and Iraq reached a deal to provide a framework for inspections of special and presidential sites.

Hussein hands out sweets in villages

Meanwhile Saturday, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein made a rare public appearance. He visited villages around Mosul, 250 miles (400 kilometers) north of Baghdad.

Iraqi officials have banned media coverage of UNSCOM activities  

Television showed him handing out sweets to children and meeting with local officials. Residents ritually slaughtered sheep, a traditional act of celebration.

State-run television showed crowds shouting, "With our blood and souls, we will defend you, Saddam."

Hussein's trip out of Baghdad, where he is believed to have spent the last several months as the crisis escalated with the United Nations, could be a sign that Iraqi officials believe the worst of the crisis has passed.

Foreign minister leaves for U.N.

Also on Saturday, Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf left for New York to hold discussions with U.N. officials on how to implement an oil-for-food deal recently approved by the U.N. Security Council.

The program allows Iraq, under sweeping sanctions imposed after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, to sell $5.2 billion of oil to buy food and humanitarian supplies.

Correspondent Peter Humi and Reuters contributed to this report

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