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Half-Hour Iraqi Delay Would Be Violation, Says Blix - 2002-11-16

The chief U.N. weapons inspector says if Iraq delays an inspection for even 30 minutes, it would be in serious violation of its obligations to the U.N. Security Council.

Chief inspector Hans Blix made the comment Saturday to the Le Monde newspaper in Paris, where he and top aides have stopped over on their way to Baghdad.

The inspectors arrive in the Iraqi capital Monday to prepare for the resumption of their search for weapons of mass destruction for the first time in four years. Mr. Blix has said the inspectors could begin inspecting sites as early as November 27.

Iraq's official media said today that the inspections will prove once and for all that the country has no nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons.

Meanwhile, U.S. and British warplanes have bombed an Iraqi air-defense site after planes patrolling the southern no-fly zone were fired upon with missiles and artillery.

Friday's clash with Iraqi forces was the first since Iraq's President Saddam Hussein accepted a Council resolution demanding Iraq give up its weapons of mass destruction.

The Bush administration believes Iraq's firing at allied planes violates the resolution. Reports say that other permanent members of the Security Council do not share that view. But U.S. officials say they may report the incident to the Council as a breach of resolution requirements.

A U.S. Defense Department statement says the U.S. and British planes Friday, fired precision-guided weapons to strike the air-defense base about 135 kilometers southeast of Baghdad. It said the planes acted in self defense. The resolution passed by the Security Council last week says there will be serious consequences if Iraq does not comply with U.N. demands. President Bush has threatened military action, and says there will be "zero tolerance" for Iraqi maneuvering to avoid detection of banned weapons.