Russian Heading New U
Russian Heading New U.N. Weapons Inspection Team Russian Heading New UN Weapons Inspection Team
UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ A Russian will lead the next U.N. team into Baghdad, following Iraq’s complaints about Americans and Britons directing searches for weapons banned under the Gulf War cease-fire, diplomats said today.
Nikita Smidovich, a U.N. staffer with experience in European disarmament talks, heads the 22-member team that was expected to reach Baghdad on Friday.
Smidovich recently has served as spokesman for Rolf Ekeus, chairman of the U.N. commission overseeing the destruction of Iraq’s nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs and its long- and medium-range missiles.
Ekeus’s new spokeswoman, Agnes Marciallou, said the appointment was not a response to Iraqi complaints, but that ″various factors, including nationality″ were considered.
Most U.N. inspection team leaders sent to Iraq since the Gulf War cease- fire have either been Americans or Britons. Iraq has accused them of spying for the key members of the international coalition that forced Iraq to reverse its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
Iraq barred the most recent, American-led team from its Agriculture Ministry. A three-week standoff ended under threats of U.S.-led military force against Iraq, but also with U.N. concessions to Iraq over the nationalities of team members.
Ekeus named a German, Achim Biermann, to lead the team that entered the ministry. And though two Americans were on the team, they did not enter the ministry. The inspectors had suspected the ministry held materials on Iraqi weapons, but emerged empty-handed.
The latest team is expected to focus on finding the remnants of Iraq’s Scud missile arsenal.
Ekeus said after the inspection of the ministry that Iraqi Deputy Premier Tariq Aziz promised him a ″new chapter″ of cooperation.
But only days later, on Sunday, an Iraqi gunman approached a uniformed U.N. guard outside the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad, where the weapons inspectors usually stay, and fired a shot at him from just three feet away.
The shot missed and the guard was unhurt.
In a related matter, Iraq complained in a letter to the U.N. today that U.S. warplanes patrolling the Kurdish-held northern part of Iraq dropped ″incendiary bombs″ near the city of Sulimaniyeh on July 27.
The U.S. Mission to the United Nations said it was unaware of the incident and had no comment on the Iraqi allegations.
In similar past cases involving Iraqi complaints, the U.S. Defense Department has said that its planes sometimes release flares if they believe that Iraqi anti-aircraft crews might be preparing to fire a heat-seeking missile at them. The flares are intended to decoy such missiles.