As U.N. weapons inspectors continue their search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, U.S. planes have dropped thousands of leaflets over southern Iraq. They contained a message and a warning.
The leaflets warn Iraqis not to repair communications facilities damaged or destroyed by U.S. and British air strikes. The leaflets also warn of more air strikes if Iraqi ground forces continue to fire anti-aircraft missiles at the U.S. and British planes patrolling the no-fly zones. In addition, the leaflets say the allied air patrols over southern and northern Iraq are intended to protect the Iraqi people.
The leaflets were dropped Thursday and marked the fifth time in two months allied planes have used this method to reach the Iraqi people.
As the leaflets were dropped, U.N. teams were conducting another round of inspections in and around Baghdad.
An Iraqi newspaper charged on Friday that the United States was certain to try to manipulate the weapons inspectors.
The ruling Baath party newspaper, Ath-Thawra, said the United States will continue what it called its illegitimate interference in the work of the inspectors and continue to threaten Iraq.
The weapons inspectors have said they will not allow their investigation to be influenced by outside interference.
In the meantime, British newspapers reported Friday that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has ordered hundreds of his staff to hide components of weapons of mass destruction in their houses in an effort to avoid detection by the inspectors.
Quoting unnamed British government sources and Iraqi intelligence reports, the newspapers said Mr. Hussein ordered scientists, civil servants and others to hide the weapons components or face severe penalties if they refuse.
Iraq has denied possessing nuclear, biological or chemical weapons. The weapons inspectors say they are being given immediate access to the sites they wish to investigate and that Iraqi officials are being fully cooperative. The inspectors say there are as many as 700 potential sites they want to visit.