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UN Inspectors Note Change in Iraqi Cooperation - 2003-02-09

The two chief U.N. weapons inspectors say they are hoping for greater cooperation from Iraqi officials, noting what they say appears to be a change in attitude. The inspectors concluded two days of talks in Baghdad and are preparing to deliver a report to the Security Council this week.

Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix and the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, reported they have made some progress in gaining Iraqi cooperation in the hunt for suspected weapons of mass destruction.

Mr. ElBaradei said he believes he has seen a change of heart from Baghdad on the three key issues.

"Full inspection, full Iraqi cooperation, movement on the remaining disarmament issues. And I think we made good progress on all these issues," he said. "I think, I have said that we need to see a change of heart on the part of Iraq. I would say that I am seeing a beginning of a change of heart on the part of Iraq. They are showing eagerness, we have seen, to move on these issues."

Mr. Blix said Iraq had handed over documents concerning anthrax, VX nerve agent, and missile development. He said it would take several days to analyze the importance of those documents.

The chief weapons inspector said Iraq had agreed to form a commission to hunt for missing documents. He said Iraqi officials did not object to the use of German-made drone aircraft for flights over Iraq, the use of Russian aircraft equipped with night vision technology and, he said, Iraq would respond before Friday to a key U.N. demand, that inspectors be allowed to use U-2 spy planes in the hunt for weapons of mass destruction.

Mr. Blix said he hopes Iraq is now interested in complying with U.N. demands to disarm.

"These two days we have held talks with our Iraqi colleagues," he said. "I hope I have seen a beginning of taking these remaining disarmament issues more seriously."

Amer al-Saadi, the presidential scientific advisor, said Iraq was doing everything the United Nations expects and said he hopes that "sanity will prevail."

Mr. ElBaradei said he expects the Security Council will give the inspectors more time, as long as "good progress" is being reported. He and Mr. Blix are scheduled to report to the Security Council Friday, on Iraqi cooperation in the weapons inspection process.

In Washington, Secretary of State Colin Powell said the United States would listen to the inspectors' new report, but that time is running out for Iraq to comply.

Meanwhile, weapons inspectors working in Iraq Sunday found a 122 mm empty chemical warhead at an ammunition depot. Inspectors have found about 17 such warheads over the past month. None have been found to contain chemical weapons.