U.N. teams search Iraqi missile nerve center for six hours

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- It was combed over by inspectors, then blasted for days by U.S. air attack. But four years later the Karama ballistic design plant is still a focus of world concern, a place where new U.N. inspectors Monday conducted their longest search yet, looking for signs of outlawed Iraqi missiles.

After six hours in the well-guarded Baghdad compound, they departed, and the plant's deputy director said all went well. "They didn't find anything," Brig. Mohammed Salah told reporters.

The inspectors, as usual, had no immediate comment for waiting journalists. But a U.N. report later Monday said some equipment of interest at Karama was missing. The Iraqis said some of the missing equipment had been destroyed in U.S. air attacks and some had been transferred.

It was the fifth day of renewed arms inspections after a four-year break. Until Monday, the longest inspections had been running about four hours, some much shorter.

The inspections come under a new U.N. Security Council mandate requiring Iraq to shut down any nuclear, chemical or biological weapons programs as well as any facilities to build missiles with more than the 90-mile range allowed under U.N. resolutions after the 1991 Gulf War.

A second U.N. team, of nuclear inspectors, visited industrial sites north of Baghdad on Monday.

Inspectors in the 1990s eliminated tons of Iraqi chemical and biological weapons and the equipment to make them, dismantled Iraq's effort to build nuclear bombs, and destroyed scores of longer-range Iraqi missiles. Those inspectors didn't believe they found all of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, however.