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Iraq Presents Additional Documents Regarding Weapons Programs - 2003-02-09


U.N. weapons inspectors are meeting for the second day with Iraqi officials in Baghdad, in the continuing effort to determine whether Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction. Iraq reportedly handed over more documents regarding its past programs for weapons of mass destruction programs, including nuclear arms. U.N. officials were quoted as saying it would take several days to determine the significance of the documents.

The documents were turned over during the second and final day of a scheduled two-day meeting involving chief U.N. arms inspector Hans Blix and the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei.

Iraqi officials had also turned over documents during Saturday's four-and-a-half hour meeting, which was described by the weapons inspectors as "useful."

The inspectors are looking for Iraqi concessions on several issues, including the use of U-2 spy planes over suspected weapons sites. They are also demanding documents or witnesses to explain what happened to missing supplies of anthrax and VX nerve agent produced more than 10 years ago.

Both officials had complained that, among other things, inspectors had been unable to interview Iraqi scientists in private. But since Thursday, five scientists have been interviewed without the presence of Iraqi officials.

With the U.N. Security Council due to receive a briefing this Friday on Iraq's compliance with the inspectors, the current meetings in Baghdad are widely seen as being crucial if Iraq is to avoid war.

The inspectors are looking for Iraq to come forward with substantial disarmament information and show a genuine acceptance of the inspection process, something Mr. Blix told the Security Council last month that Baghdad had failed to do.

U.N. arms inspectors resumed weapons inspections on November 27, after a four-year absence. They have not reported any major finds of illegal weapons of mass destruction or any evidence that Iraq is attempting to build such weapons.

U.S. President George W. Bush contends that Baghdad is actively hiding banned weapons, including chemical and biological agents, and is threatening to wage war, unilaterally if need be, unless Baghdad fully disarms.

Mr. Blix and Mr. ElBaradei are scheduled to leave Iraq early Monday.

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