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UN Inspectors Spark Controversy by Entering Iraqi Mosque - 2003-01-22

Iraq claimed it shot down an unmanned U.S. spy plane Wednesday, as U.N. weapons inspectors sparked controversy by entering a mosque.

A prominent Iraqi clergyman said U.N. inspectors visited his mosque on Wednesday, inspecting areas that he said only contained copies of the Holy Koran. Sheikh Qutaiba Ammash called the inspection a provocation.

Meanwhile, the official Iraqi News Agency reported Wednesday that Iraq shot down an unmanned U.S. aircraft, saying the reconnaissance drone had entered Iraqi airspace from Kuwait. The unconfirmed report did not indicate when or where it was downed.

Meanwhile, weapons inspectors made several unannounced visits in their search for weapons of mass destruction.

One nuclear team went to the University of Basra near Iraq's border with Kuwait. A chemical team traveled south of Baghdad to check out a missile facility. Missile experts visited the al-Badr missile complex where equipment related to the enrichment of uranium was made before the 1991 Gulf war. And biological experts visited the Technology Institute in Baghdad. That visit triggered a brief protest by several dozen Iraqi students.

Iraqi government officials brought a chicken farmer to the press center in Baghdad to tell the international media he was going to file a lawsuit against the United Nations.

The farmer said weapons inspectors destroyed a wall of a building on his farm and broke locks while searching for banned weapons. The farmer took reporters to the location where a sealed brick doorway had been broken down. Old farm equipment could be seen inside the room.

Weapons inspectors are working under a newly signed agreement that calls for greater cooperation from Iraqi officials in the hunt for banned nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. However, the agreement fails to address several requests being made by U.N. officials, including allowing inspectors to take Iraqi scientists out of the country to be interviewed. The agreement also does not completely satisfy the inspectors' desire to fly U-2 spy planes over suspected weapons sites.

Those issues may be discussed next Monday when the Security Council gets a full briefing on the progress of the weapons inspections.

Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix said Wednesday in New York that while Iraq has been fully cooperating on some issues it has not on others, and he suggested Iraq needs to increase its efforts to prove it has no weapons of mass destruction.