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Iraqi Official: Scientists Refuse UN Interviews in Private


A senior Iraqi official has told reporters in Baghdad he does not expect an upcoming report by U.N. weapons inspectors to be completely positive or negative. The official also said his government is having difficulty convincing Iraqi scientists to agree to be interviewed in private.

The official, Lt. General Hossam Mohammed Amin, says his government has encouraged at least six Iraqi scientists to agree to be interviewed by U.N. weapons inspectors in private, but all refused, saying they wanted government officials to be present.

Weapons inspectors believe Iraqi scientists would be more likely to provide pertinent information outside the presence of Iraqi officials.

Lt. General Amin said Iraqi officials did their best to push the scientists but said the scientists refused to be interviewed without the presence of Iraqi government officials.

He also said he expects an upcoming report by U.N. weapons inspectors to the Security Council not to be, as he put it, totally favorable to Iraq, but at least "gray." On Monday, chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix files a progress report with the council on Iraq's cooperation with the U.N. mission to certify that Iraq is free of banned weapons.

Lt. General Amin said he hoped Mr. Blix will not emphasize points of disagreement, such as Iraq's refusal to allow the inspectors to use U-2 spy planes unless they are accompanied by Iraqi aircraft.

On Thursday U.N. weapons inspectors visited food stores, a missile factory, a fiberglass production plant and a university in Baghdad.

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