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December 9, 1997

Chief U.N. Weapons Inspector Richard Butler Says Iraq Appears Unwilling To Allow U.N. Teams To Check All Suspected Weapons Sites

But Butler said he would not bend on his demand that the team be able to check all suspected weapons sites.

``If we’re to complete this job, we must have cooperation with Iraq and access to all sites,″ Butler said. ``There is no sign ... they’re willing to cooperate.″

Butler heads for Baghdad on Friday _ his first visit to the country since a crisis flared last month over Iraq’s expulsion of American members of the U.N. team. Saddam later allowed the Americans to return.

Butler met today with Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine and Defense Minister Alain Richard to discuss a French offer to place more French nationals on the U.N. team.

Butler said Iraq’s claims that the U.N. team has too many American members were ``utterly without foundation,″ although he welcomed the proposal.

Iraqi authorities have refused to let the team inspect certain sites, including Saddam Hussein’s many presidential palaces, because it claims they are sensitive to national security.

Paris has pressed since the start of the crisis for a more accommodating approach toward Iraq, and has urged Butler to visit Baghdad as soon as possible to defuse tensions before another showdown.

The U.N. imposed economic sanctions against Iraq after Saddam’s soldiers occupied Kuwait in 1990. The sanctions will not be lifted until the weapons inspectors verify Iraq has eliminated its weapons of mass destruction as required by U.N. resolutions that ended the 1991 Persian Gulf War, in which a U.S.-led force drove Iraq from Kuwait.

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