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November 14, 1997

U.S. Arms Inspectors Expelled From Iraq Have Reached Jordan After a Dreary Night Drive Across the DesertBy JAMAL HALABY

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) _ U.S. arms inspectors expelled from Iraq reached the Jordanian capital today after a dreary night drive across the desert. Their 68 colleagues were allowed to fly to Bahrain.

``We have a job to do, and we hope to return soon to carry out the task,″ said Alan Dacey, one of those on the flight that took the non-American inspectors to Bahrain.

The six Americans from the inspection teams in Iraq, some wearing baseball caps and jeans, pulled into Amman early today in a convoy of three U.N. station wagons, ending a roughly 10-hour drive from Baghdad.

Laden with suitcases and gear, they drove through the hilly city’s largely deserted streets to a downtown hotel. Two Australian and British U.N. workers accompanied the Americans.

Some smiled, but none spoke to the reporters and camera crews waiting in their hotel lobby. Four inspectors bought souvenirs from a gift shop.

The Americans were expected to stay only briefly before heading on to an undisclosed next stop.

Saddam Hussein ordered the Americans out of Iraq on Thursday, making good on a 2-week-old threat to expel U.S. members of U.N. teams monitoring Iraq’s elimination of its weapons of mass destruction.

Angered by Saddam’s order, chief weapons inspector Richard Butler decided to withdraw the rest of his inspections staff from Baghdad _ leaving behind only a skeleton staff _ rather than let Iraq dictate the nationalities of his monitoring teams.

Saddam let 66 non-American inspectors stay overnight before they caught a U.N. plane to the island nation of Bahrain. Some waved and flashed thumbs-up signs from their bus as they left Baghdad for an airport outside the city.

Iraqi officials escorted the inspectors to the airport, cordially and peacefully, Dacey said.

The Iraqi government had no immediate comment today on the inspectors’ departure.

``We were there to do our jobs and we were denied access, which is very frustrating,″ Dacey told The Associated Press in the Bahraini capital of Manama.

Roughly 70 disarmament experts were in Iraq to try to make sure the nation destroyed banned weapons programs, including stocks of nerve gas and biological toxins. The Security Council ordered it to do so at the end of the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

The council will not lift trade sanctions against Iraq _ imposed after Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait _ until those terms are met.

The Americans were expelled one day after the council voted unanimously to condemn Iraq for its original Oct. 29 decision to kick out the American inspectors.

On Wednesday, the council slapped a travel ban on Iraqis who interfere with the inspections but avoided any explicit threat of military force. The Security Council issued another resolution Thursday condemning the expulsion, but went no further than that.

Despite the order against U.S. inspectors, Washington was prepared to fly more reconnaissance flights to keep on eye on Saddam’s arsenal, Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon said in Washington.

The United Nations informed Saddam that a ``window″ in which a U-2 flight could take place would open ``sometime this weekend.″ Iraq has threatened to shoot down U.S.-piloted planes that enter Iraqi airspace.

Also, the top U.S. military officer in the Persian Gulf, Gen. Anthony Zinni, was continuing talks with friendly Arab nations there, Bacon said, without elaborating on the substance of the discussions.

Britain, which like the United States said it was still seeking a diplomatic solution to the crisis, is preparing for the possibility of a military solution, Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said today before a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Britain ordered the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Invincible back from the Caribbean on Thursday after Iraq expelled the U.S. inspectors.

Defense Secretary George Robertson said the move should not be read as a decision to send Invincible to the Persian Gulf, but called it a ``commonsense measure.″

For 11 days, Butler insisted on sending along Americans on U.N. inspections, and each time the Iraqis barred the U.S. inspectors from entering suspected weapons sites.

Iraq claims Americans dominate and manipulate the U.N. Special Commission, which conducts the inspections, to keep the sanctions in place. Iraq also has accused the Americans of spying.

Butler admitted Thursday that pulling all monitors out would weaken the United Nations’ ability to ensure that Iraq is not building banned weapons.

But he said the United Nations could not tolerate ``this illegal separation of nationalities.″

Butler said he hoped the departing team members could return when ``the conditions are acceptable.″

Update hourly