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Iraq Agrees to Provide More Active Cooperation With UN Inspectors - 2003-01-20

Iraq said it will comply with U.N. demands to be more active in proving that it does not possess weapons of mass destruction. Senior Iraqi and U.N. officials agreed on a new 10-point plan, but U.N. inspectors say more issues need to be addressed.

Iraq said it will urge Iraqi scientists to be interviewed in private by U.N. weapons inspectors. It will also appoint a team of investigators to search for additional banned weapons, like the empty chemical warheads discovered since last Thursday.

Amir al-Saadi, a senior adviser to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, spoke to reporters in Baghdad Monday after meeting with senior U.N. envoys Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei. "After the find of some empty 122-milimeter chemical munitions, the Iraqi side has appointed a team to undertake an investigation and comprehensive search to look for similar cases at all locations. One find of four more units was already reported at the al-Taji munitions storage. The final results will be announced," he said.

U.N. inspectors also discovered 3,000 pages of documents related to the enrichment of uranium at the home of an Iraqi scientist. Iraq agreed to hand over more documents and provide additional names of those involved in its weapons programs.

Baghdad has also agreed to answer questions about its December 7 12,000-page arms declaration that U.N. officials have said provided no new information. It also promised to adopt national legislation regarding banned nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.

But chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix said important issues remain to be settled, including the status of Iraqi stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and the inspectors' desire to take Iraqi scientists out of the country for interviews.

The head of the political science department at American University in Beirut, Sami Barroudi, said if Iraq fully cooperates it will be more difficult for the United States to justify military action.

"This is sort of another indicator that Iraq is not looking for a confrontation with the United States or with the United Nations. I mean, from the point that they said we are welcoming the inspectors back and that we are going to abide by [Security Council resolution] 1441 despite our objections, that basically they do not want to create a provocation or, in their words, any pretext for the United States and Britain to move against them. And certainly that will make it more difficult for the United States to obtain support for a strike against Iraq," Mr. Barroudi explained.

According to Cairo University Political Science professor Mohammed Kamal Iraqi cooperation is about survival. The political science professor at Cairo University saidthis time Baghdad understands "there will be a price to pay" for failing to fully cooperate.

"This time the Iraqi leadership realizes that if the inspectors report that Iraq has not cooperated that means the end of Saddam Hussein's regime. So this time the Iraqis are taking it seriously, because it is about the survival of Saddam. And I expect there to be more cooperation with the United Nations in the future," Mr. Kamal said.

The senior U.N. inspectors, Mr. Blix and Mr. ElBaradei, met with Iraqi officials for two days, urging greater cooperation. The two men are to provide a status report to the Security Council next Monday.