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Iraqi Scientists Agree to Meetings With Inspectors, If Tape Recorded - 2003-02-18

Iraqi scientists say they are ready to be interviewed by U.N. weapons inspectors, but only if the meetings are tape recorded.

Weapons inspectors said Tuesday that many Iraqi scientists are agreeing to be interviewed, but only if the meetings are tape recorded, which is unacceptable to the inspectors.

Weapons inspectors believe the scientists would be more candid without the presence of tape recorders. Iraqi government officials have said the scientists are concerned their words might be misunderstood or changed in the atmosphere of private interviews.

So far only three Iraqi scientists have been interviewed in private.

In the meantime, U.N. weapons inspectors visited numerous sites in and around Baghdad in their hunt for arms of mass destruction.

The inspectors traveled to a chemical and explosives production plant, a company that makes electronics parts, industrial gases and purified water, a plant that makes high-voltage regulators and electrical cables, a dairy factory, a chemical and explosives plant and a missile maintenance workshop.

Inspectors also revisited missile facilities including ones that produce rocket systems the weapons inspectors say are banned because they allegedly can fly beyond the U.N.-mandated limit of 150 kilometers.

Iraq considers its al-Samoud missile system legitimate, saying that once the missile is fitted with guidance and control systems and other devices, the added weight allows the missile to fly within legal distances.

Iraq may have to destroy those missiles or possibly face being in material breech of U.N. resolutions banning the weapons.

Weapons inspectors have begun using U-2 reconnaissance planes in the search for banned nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. The first flight of the sophisticated radar and photography aircraft occurred Monday.