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World - Middle East

Chief U.N. weapons inspector wants Iraqi documents

A convoy of U.N. weapons inspectors leaves the Habaniya air base west of Baghdad after arriving back in Iraq  
U.S. conditions for Iraq
Iraqi weapons adviser reaffirms cooperation

Many Gulf-bound U.S. warplanes turn back
November 17, 1998
Web posted at: 12:47 p.m. EST (1747 GMT)

UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- Chief U.N. weapons inspector Richard Butler said Tuesday that the top priority of the newly returned U.N. disarmament teams would be to obtain key documentation from Iraq about its weapons systems.

Butler, who heads the U.N. Special Commission known as UNSCOM, told CNN in an interview that he would ask Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz for those documents.

"I'll be writing to Mr. Aziz ... it'll be about documents," Butler said. "Documents are crucial to us."

"I earnestly believe that those documents exist, and they're in the possession of the government of Iraq, and they can choose to give them to us," Butler added.

Among the documents Butler is expected to seek is one listing the munitions capable of being filled with chemical agents. Iraq used chemical weapons in its war with Iran in the 1980s.


UNSCOM, which is charged with assuring the United Nations that Iraq has dismantled weapons of mass destruction, first discovered the document during a search of Iraqi Air Force headquarters in July.

After initially telling the inspectors they could copy the document, Iraqi officials later refused to allow them to do so. The UNSCOM team was allowed to take notes on the document only after the Iraqis blacked out several portions.

Butler said he had no immediate plans to go to Iraq to assist his inspectors. The scientists and technicians going back to Iraq "don't need me in their way today."

Inspectors set up shop again

UNSCOM inspectors are continuing their work for the United Nations in Baghdad  

U.N. weapons monitors returned to Baghdad a week after they left the country to avoid threatened U.S.-led airstrikes. U.N. relief workers also returned to Iraq.

"We are looking forward to a professional and productive relationship with the Iraqi authorities over the next few days ... and time will tell," said UNSCOM spokeswoman Caroline Cross.

Cross said the monitors had already begun getting computers and communications working and would be "back out in the field as soon as possible, as instructed by New York."

Iraq suspended cooperation with UNSCOM on October 31, as part of its campaign to get the United Nations to lift the strict sanctions it imposed after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

But Baghdad then abruptly ended its ban and pledged renewed cooperation with the United Nations to avoid airstrikes.

Butler said the Iraqi promise to provide complete and full access for UNSCOM inspectors "must be tested as soon as possible."

He called this opportunity for inspections "the last best chance -- Iraq has really got to do it this time ... we can't just keep going on and on in a circle."

Correspondent Jane Arraf and Reuters contributed to this report.

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