U.N. inspectors satisfied with first day's work
Thursday, November 28, 2002
AL-AMIRIYAH, Iraq -- Digging into Iraqi computers, surveying scenes with detectives' eyes, U.N. specialists finally got down to the business of weapons inspection Wednesday at the start of a demanding, months-long job that could make or break peace in the Mideast.
The inspectors revisited an Iraqi missile testing site, a nearby graphite rod factory, and a motor plant potentially linked to nuclear activities. They sounded satisfied with Iraqi attitudes.
"We hope the Iraqi response today represents the future pattern of cooperation," said Jacques Baute, the nuclear inspectors' leader.
The Iraqi side also sounded a businesslike note. "We opened doors and submitted to inspection openly," said Ali Jassam Hussein, director of the missile site 25 miles southwest of Baghdad along the Euphrates River.
The U.N. teams did not immediately disclose any significant new findings from their surprise inspections, and may never do so. In the volatile atmosphere surrounding Iraq, the inspectors are expected to leave it to their New York and Vienna agency chiefs to reveal serious problems in the campaign to strip Iraq of any capability in chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.
Those tensions sharpened on the inspectors' first working day Wednesday when an air-raid siren wailed in Baghdad, and Iraqi officials said a "hostile flight" had flown over the capital. The U.S. military, whose warplanes have routinely patrolled Iraqi airspace since the 1991 Gulf War, had no comment.
The United States has warned it will disarm Iraq by force if the inspections fail, with or without international help. Most other governments say only the U.N. Security Council can authorize such a move.
The U.N. teams will continue their field missions -- difficult, detailed inspections of hundreds of sites -- every day. They've resumed under a Security Council mandate after a four-year break, to assess whether Baghdad is still making to chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.
In New York, Norway's U.N. Ambassador Ole Peter Kolby, who chairs the Security Council committee monitoring sanctions against Iraq, said it appeared the first day's inspections went well.
Hans Blix, the chief weapons inspector, concurred that Wednesday's initial inspections went well. But he told CNN in an interview that it was up to Iraq to show it has no weapons of mass destruction.