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Key Developments Concerning Iraq

February 5, 2003

Developments in the Iraq crisis:

_ U.N. inspectors revisited the main site of Iraq’s former nuclear weapons, searching the storage facilities at the Al-Tuwaitha complex south of Baghdad. They also paid surprise visits to a food research center, a dairy company and the Laser Institute at Baghdad University.

_ British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Iraq is creating a ``permissive environment″ in which Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network could be operating. ``But we don’t know the full extent″ of those links, Straw said.

_ Saddam Hussein, in a rare TV interview, denied that Baghdad has a relationship with al-Qaida or weapons of mass destruction, saying it would be impossible to hide such arms. ``If we had a relationship with al-Qaida, and we believed in that relationship, we wouldn’t be ashamed to admit it,″ the Iraqi leader said.

_ Secretary of State Colin Powell will be backed by top CIA officials as he presents evidence to the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday to try to convince wavering allies and other nations that Iraq has hidden weapons of mass destruction and defied calls to disarm.

_ Warning that it’s ``five minutes to midnight,″ chief U.N. inspector Hans Blix pleaded with the Iraqi government to produce evidence about its weapons programs during his visit to Baghdad this weekend.

_ The Norfolk-based aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt and its battle group finished training in the Caribbean and began heading overseas, the Navy said. It is expected to join three aircraft carriers that have moved into striking range of Iraq.

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