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First U-2 Flight Occurs over Iraq - 2003-02-18

Iraq has made good on its pledge to allow U-2 reconnaissance planes to fly over its territory in support of the weapons inspection process.

The first flight of the U-2 surveillance plane occurred just before noon Baghdad time Monday and lasted a total four hours and twenty minutes over undisclosed areas of Iraq.

Iraq agreed to allow the flights of the spy planes last week. The flights fulfill a major demand by U.N. arms inspectors who are searching for weapons of mass destruction.

The planes were regularly used during the 1990s when weapons inspectors were last allowed in Iraq. They can stay in the air up to 12 hours and are wanted by the inspectors because they can circle over suspected weapons sites for hours at a time taking photographs and operating infrared and radar imagery devices.

In addition to the flights of the U-2's, some Iraqi scientists have begun agreeing to be interviewed in private and Saddam Hussein last week signed a decree banning weapons of mass destruction. These were three key demands made by chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix to substantiate its claim that it is cooperating with the weapons inspectors.

The U.N. Security Council is due to receive another briefing on Iraqi cooperation March 1.