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Inspectors Say Some Equipment at Iraqi Missile Development Site is Missing - 2002-12-02

U.N. weapons inspectors say they have discovered that some equipment at an installation that had been at one of Iraq's main missile development sites is missing. The inspectors say they plan to verify Iraqi claims that some of the missing equipment has been moved to other locations.

The equipment included surveillance systems installed by the previous U.N. inspection mission according to U.N. spokesman Hiro Ueki. Mr. Ueki said the missing equipment also included a number of tagged items by the United Nations Special Commission that was last in Iraq in 1998.

Mr. Ueki said Monday none of the pieces of equipment was currently in place at the Iraqi missile site. The site is thought to be one of Iraq's main missile development facilities responsible for developing now-banned long range SCUD missiles.

According to Mr. Ueki, Iraqi officials said the equipment was either destroyed during bombing raids or had been transferred to other sites. He said the inspectors plan to verify the Iraqi claims. He said regardless of the missing items the inspection team was able to carry out the inspection tasks that had been planned.

A second inspection team went to a distillery that makes alcoholic beverages. Alcohol is a component of many chemical weapons.

Monday marked the fifth day in the hunt by U.N. inspectors for weapons of mass destruction, nuclear, biological and chemical, as well as any facilities that are capable of producing them. Iraq insists it possess no such weapons.

The inspectors are working under a U.N. Security Council resolution that gives them the power to go anywhere at any time to search suspected weapons sites which could total as many as 700.

Iraq is facing a Sunday deadline to submit a complete list of all weapons of mass destruction in its possession.

In the meantime, Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri has sent a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan complaining Sunday's U.S. and British air raids in southern Iraq marked an escalation of what Mr. Sabri called "the hostile and terrorist campaign by the United States and Britain."

Allied forces bombed an oil installation that Iraqi authorities say killed four people and injured 27. The U.S. military said its planes launched precision guided weapons at Iraqi air defense systems and always took precautions to avoid harming civilians. U.S. and British forces have been enforcing no fly zones in northern and southern Iraq since the conclusion of the Gulf war in 1991.

Mr. Sabri said the bombing, in the southern port city of Basra, violated Security Council resolutions and amounted to what he said was "state terrorism, wanton aggression" and interference in Iraq's internal affairs.