Iraq says U.N. makes surprise inspection
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Web posted at: 9:20 p.m. EST (0220 GMT)
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- According to the official Iraqi News Agency, U.N. arms inspectors made a "surprise visit" Saturday to an unspecified installation in their first unscheduled mission since they went back to work four days ago.
INA quoted Iraqi Major-General Hussam Amin, head of the National Monitoring Directorate as saying, "A missile team carried out a surprise visit to one installation to check its monthly production records."
A spokesman for the NMD, which reports to the U.N. Special Weapons Commission, said the visit took place at a previously inspected site.
A U.N. source said there was nothing unusual about Saturday's inspections, adding that such inspections are always unannounced. Yet it was the first time INA had reported a surprise inspection since UNSCOM monitors resumed what were normally routine missions.
In August Iraq said it would no longer cooperate with UNSCOM surprise inspections, a decision that nevertheless allowed inspectors to carry out their routine surveillance work.
But then on October 31 Iraq broke off all cooperation with the agency, leading to U.S. and British threats of violence against Baghdad.
Amin said inspectors had also visited chemical, biological and nuclear weapons sites. The nuclear team took environmental samples such as tree leaves during its visit. The biological team checked equipment seals, which were intact.
A camera surveillance unit visited various sites to maintain or change fixed monitoring cameras, and high-flying U-2 spy planes carried out reconnaissance missions over Iraq for UNSCOM, he added.
"The Iraqi side offered the required facilities to the work of the teams," Amin concluded.
The INA report said the inspectors received full cooperation from Iraqi authorities. But they have resumed their task amid a new dispute over Iraq's refusal to offer documents.
While the U.N. inspection teams in Iraq were able to carry out their inspections for four consecutive days, Iraqi officials told UNSCOM chief Richard Butler that many of the documents he requested were destroyed, never existed or had already been turned over. Baghdad also said it would allow only a partial viewing of a sensitive Iraqi air force document.
U.S. President Bill Clinton cautioned against an immediate reaction.
"I think it's important that we not overreact here on the first day. I want to make sure I know exactly what the facts are," he said at a news conference in Seoul.
"I hope that Iraq would comply as it said it would in the letters (to the United Nations) just a few days ago with the letter and spirit of the U.N. resolutions and give them (inspectors) the information they seek," Clinton said.
In Baghdad, the influential daily Babel said U.S. military threats against Iraq were part of a conspiracy that "aims to break the bones of any independent country which contradicts the political objectives and directions of American policy."
"It is as if the embargo will not be lifted or eased even if UNSCOM reaches positive results," Babel said.
Iraq raised objections on Friday to Butler's requests for documents on banned weapons programs.
In two letters sent to the United Nations, Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Riyadh al-Qaysi indicated Baghdad wanted a promised review of Iraq's compliance with Security Council resolutions before further action on disarmament.
Qaysi characterized some of Butler's requests as "provocative rather than professional."
A full accounting by UNSCOM and the International Atomic Energy Agency of Baghdad's chemical, biological, nuclear and ballistic missile program is a key condition for lifting sanctions in force since Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
Qaysi said the "prevailing trend in the deliberations of the Security Council and the positions resulting therefrom have been to commence with a comprehensive review" a short time after UNSCOM resumed its activities in Iraq.
"The judgment on the remaining issues which should be followed up rests with the Security Council," he said.
CNN's Ben Wedeman and Reuters contributed to this report.
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