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U.N. Team To Close Iraq UNSCOM Lab

July 8, 1999

UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ A team of weapons experts will leave for Iraq today to close a laboratory and destroy chemical and biological agents left behind by U.N. inspectors, a spokesman said.

The team will consist of scientists from The Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and an independent biological weapons expert, U.N. spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva said Wednesday.

The team will be accompanied in Baghdad by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s special representative, Prakash Shah, and four senior foreign diplomats who are based in the Iraqi capital, he said.

The former chief weapons inspector, Richard Butler, recommended that a team of experts be dispatched to Iraq to destroy the samples, used to calibrate testing equipment, and remove the less than 2 pounds of Iraqi mustard gas stored at the U.N. lab in Baghdad.

In a report last month, Butler said the samples were safely stored and posed no threat. But he said they should be destroyed and the lab closed because inspectors have been gone for longer than expected and summer weather could lead to fluctuations in the electricity supply to the facilities.

The inspectors, who had been in Iraq since 1991 to oversee the destruction of its weapons of mass destruction, withdrew from Iraq in mid-December, before the United States and Britain launched airstrikes.

The government of President Saddam Hussein has barred inspectors from the U.N. Special Commission from returning.

The composition of the team appeared to be an attempt to secure Iraqi cooperation since its members are not from the commission and two team members come from Russia and China, countries friendly toward Iraq.

The others come from South Africa, Germany and Poland, which represents U.S. interests in Baghdad.

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