U.N. Team Inspects Iraq’s Scud ‘Graveyard’
MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) _ U.N. inspectors on Sunday visited an Iraqi weapons graveyard where Baghdad claims to have destroyed substantial quantities of missiles and other terror weapons nine months ago.
The 35-member team arrived in Iraq on Saturday to verify a new claim by Saddam Hussein’s government that previously undisclosed Scud missiles, chemical weapons and other arms were destroyed under terms of the Persian Gulf War cease-fire.
The revelations last week forestalled a threat by the United States and its allies to launch a military strike to force Iraq to comply with the U.N. accords requiring the elimination of its weapons of mass destruction.
U.N. inspector Derek Boothby said his team had taken ″the first steps″ Sunday in verifying Iraq’s disclosures. The inspections would continue Monday, he said in a statement issued in Baghdad and relayed to The Associated Press by aides in a telephone interview.
Earlier, a duty officer at the team’s operations room in Baghdad said the inspectors went to the site early in the morning. The officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, would not give the location of the site, dubbed the ″graveyard″ by officials of the U.N. Special Commission that is supervising elimination of Iraqi arms.
The U.N. Security Council ordered Iraq to disclose detailed data of its stock of chemical and biological arsenals, ballistic missiles and a nuclear weapons program after its defeat last year.
However, Iraq has been widely accused of trying to conceal information and hoarding weapons in underground caches.
Boothby, the team’s British leader, has said the new Iraqi revelations were ″quite significant.″
U.N. officials have not disclosed the amount of weapons that Iraq claims to have destroyed last June.
On previous missions, U.N. teams destroyed 62 long-range missiles. Baghdad fired some missiles into Saudi Arabia and Israel during the Gulf War, but many remain unaccounted for. U.N. officials say Iraq obtained more than 800 missiles from the former Soviet Union in the 1980s.
U.N. officials said Iraq also has dropped a demand for converting missile- production equipment to civilian use, and Boothby said he would discuss the destruction of the machinery with Iraqi officials during his nine-day trip.
More than 35 U.N. weapons teams have gone into Iraq in the past year, and several have encountered problems.
On one trip, Iraqi soldiers fired over the heads of inspectors trying to photograph a nuclear site. On another, Iraqi officials surrounded a U.N. team on a parking lot for four days in a failed effort to block the removal of documents from the nuclear weapons program. Several inspectors also were roughed up outside their Baghdad hotel by demonstrators.
In Vienna, Austria, an Iraqi delegation continued discussions with the International Atomic Energy Agency over the demolition of installations at the Al Atheer nuclear plant outside Baghdad. The facility escaped damage during the Gulf War.
Another U.N. team also remained in Iraq overseeing destruction of chemical warheads.