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USIS Washington 
File

13 March 1998

UNSCOM SAYS SENSITIVE SITE INSPECTIONS SUCCESSFUL

(Ritter reports to Secretary General Annan) (780)

By Judy Aita

USIA United Nations Correspondent



United Nations -- Referring to "a new spirit" of cooperation between
Iraq and the UN, the head of the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM)
overseeing the destruction of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq told
reporters March 13 that weapons experts received "access of a kind
that we've never had before" during recent inspections.


UNSCOM Chairman Richard Butler said that UN inspectors "were given
access of a kind that we've never had before in terms of the places we
got into and in terms of the numbers of inspectors and ways in which
we got into those places including for example, the headquarters of
the Iraqi Ministry of Defense."


The head of the latest inspection team, UNSCOM chief inspector Scott
Ritter, briefed Secretary General Kofi Annan on the first inspections
of sensitive sites since the signing of the memorandum of
understanding between Iraq and the UN February 23. The inspections, by
50 inspectors from 11 nations, were carried out March 6-9.


"Ritter was able to report to the Secretary General that he considers
-- and I certainly agree -- that we had established some new
procedures and some new benchmarks there for access to sites that Iraq
chooses to declare as sensitive," Butler said at a press briefing.


"We are hopeful that having gained that access, established the
practicality and usefulness of the procedure...it continues to work
well in the future," Butler said.


"There is a new spirit out there," he said. "I think that's what the
Ritter exercise shows. The Secretary General has come back with a
pledge of cooperation by Iraq and it seems to be being fulfilled. I
really welcome that.


"So far the tests have come up well," Butler said.



"Sensitive" and "presidential" sites have been the source of major
confrontations between Iraq and the UN in the past. On a special
diplomatic mission to Baghdad February 21-23 Annan worked out a
"memorandum of understanding" with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein that
states Iraq's agreement to allow weapons inspectors "immediate,
unconditional and unrestricted access" to all sites and sets up
special procedures for investigating eight presidential sites.


In January Ritter's team was withdrawn after Iraqi officials refused
to work with the group complaining that there were too many members
from the United States and Great Britain.


"What we have in our hands is a new situation created by the Secretary
General in the memorandum of understanding. It gives us an
unprecedented opportunity to get this job done," Butler said referring
to an end to destruction of Iraq's weapons and cataloging of its
banned weapons programs.


(Economic sanctions against Iraq cannot be lifted until UNSCOM
certifies to the Security Council that the weapons have been destroyed
and Iraq's weapons programs are under long-term monitoring and
verification.)


"I will do whatever is required to get done on our side. I expect Iraq
will do the same on its side and I think overall everyone would be
better off if we did that rather quietly and got on with it," Butler
said.


Butler also announced that he will heading a scientific and policy
team that will visit Baghdad beginning March 22 to discuss weapons
inspections issues, including the upcoming visits to Iraq's so-called
presidential sites.


Inspections of the presidential sites are slated to begin soon after
Butler leaves Baghdad.


Butler said he will hold two days of meetings with Deputy Prime
Minister Tariq Aziz reviewing the results of the technical evaluation
meetings that have been held on the status of the missile, chemical
and biological weapons destruction and programs and "talking about the
future of UNSCOM-Iraq cooperation in light of the memorandum of
understanding." He also is slated to spend another two days with UN
staff at UNSCOM's Baghdad monitoring and verification center.


Undersecretary General Jayantha Dhanapala, who has been appointed the
UNSCOM commissioner to handle the diplomats who will accompany UN
weapons inspectors as "observers" at the presidential sites, will also
be in Baghdad for talks with Iraqi officials.


Butler said about 10 nuclear experts from the International Atomic
Energy Agency (IAEA) will be joining UNSCOM chemical, biological, and
missile experts and other UNSCOM personnel for the inspections of the
eight presidential sites. Dhanapala will provide the diplomats needed
for the teams.


When all the personnel have been assembled "they will travel to
Baghdad," Butler said. "We will do all eight sites beginning at one
and continuing through all eight until we've done all of them," he
said.


The size of the teams will vary depending on the size of the
presidential sites, Butler said.