03 April 1998
(UNSCOM preparing report for Security Council) (290) By Stephen D'Alessandro USIA Special Correspondent United Nations -- The special group of UN Special Commission for Iraq (UNSOM) weapons inspectors, diplomats and representatives of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has completed its initial inspections of Iraqi presidential sites, according to the United Nations. The team of more than 50 weapons inspectors and 20 diplomats was scheduled to leave Iraq April 3 to return to UN headquarters in New York City. "UN inspectors completed inspections of eight presidential sites in Iraq last night (April 2) after the second visit to the Republican Palace Presidential site," a UN spokesperson said. "It took eight days to complete the so-called baseline inspections of the presidential sites," UN deputy spokesman Juan Carlos Brandt told a press briefing. The inspectors and the diplomats who flew into Iraq specifically for this initial round of inspections were preparing to leave the country, he said. These inspections, which began March 26, were the first conducted on the eight presidential sites in over seven years of UNSCOM inspections in Iraq. Access to these sites, which Iraq had declared off limits to the United Nations, was granted only after Secretary General Kofi Annan signed an agreement with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein during his visit to Baghdad last month which allows UN weapons experts, accompanied by a special group of "diplomatic observers," to inspect the compounds. Unfettered access to these and other sites is one of the conditions that must be met to complete the weapons inspections and ultimately lift UN sanctions. A report on the palace inspections is expected to be submitted by UNSCOM Chairman Richard Butler to the UN Security Council the week April 6.