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UN Weapons Inspectors Search Private Iraqi Homes - 2003-01-16

On the 48th day of weapons inspections in Iraq, U.N. inspectors traveled to a residential neighborhood in Baghdad. The inspectors say they plan to ask the U.N. Security Council for more time to finish their search for weapons of mass destruction.

For the first time since resuming their work on November 27, U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq expanded their search to include private homes, but with some delay. Inspectors cordoned off a residential street with their vehicles. They had to wait about an hour before entering two homes belonging to an Iraqi nuclear scientist and a physicist because neither man was at home when the inspectors arrived.

The inspection angered some neighbors, who complained the search of private homes is not acceptable. U.N. weapons inspectors have the authority to search any location they choose.

Other inspection teams visited a radio and television compound run by the armed Iranian opposition group Mujahedeen Khalq.

The group has operated in Iraq since 1986 and has carried out attacks across the border in Iran. The group seeks the violent overthrow of the Iranian government and is considered a terrorist organization by the United States. The inspection of the its communications facility was monitored by two Iraqi helicopters.

Meanwhile, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, said his agency would ask the U.N. Security Council for more time to complete its investigation. He said inspectors need to interview more scientists and see more documents to ensure Iraq is not in possession of weapons of mass destruction. He indicated the process could take several more months.

Monday, Mr. ElBaradei and chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix are due to brief the U.N. Security Council on the progress of their investigation. They will meet with Iraqi officials in Baghdad on Sunday, where they are expected to warn Iraq of severe consequences, including possible war, unless it becomes more cooperative in the search for banned nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

Iraq insists it has no such weapons and inspectors say, so far, they have not uncovered any.