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Tensions Rise over UN Inspections in Iraq - 2002-12-05

As weapons inspections in Iraq enter their second week, there are signs of increasing tensions between Baghdad and the United Nations. The Bush administration is calling on weapons inspectors to accelerate their work by carrying out multiple, simultaneous searches of suspected Iraqi weapons sites. In a sign that cooperation with the United Nations may soon be tested, Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan lashed out at the inspection process Wednesday, denouncing the inspectors as being spies for Israel and the United States. He accused the teams of trying to see if Iraq will block searches like one Tuesday at one of President Saddam Hussein's palaces in order to justify a U.S.-led attack.

But at a news conference in Baghdad, inspection team leader Demetrius Perricos defended the inspectors' work while acknowledging weapons experts are forced to navigate between conflicting sets of demands about how searches should be conducted.

"The Iraqi side would have liked us to be very light," he said. "The U.S. side, from what I hear from you, would like us to be extremely severe. I think what we're doing is the proper way. We are still doing a good job, we are still getting results. But as you realize, it is only the first week."

This, as Iraq announced its forthcoming statement to the United Nations about its weapons programs expected Saturday, will amount to declaration that it does not have any nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.

At the White House, President Bush said: "... now we'll see whether or not he [Saddam Hussein] does. And if he does, we expect them to be completely destroyed in a full accounting."

But for the second time this week, the president suggested signs do not point to a willingness on Iraq's part to comply with the United Nations demand for disarmament. "Anybody that shoots at U.S. airplanes or British airplanes is not somebody who looks like he's interested in complying with disarmament," he said.

The Pentagon says U.S. warplanes dropped precision guided bombs on a component of Iraq's air defense system Wednesday after coalition aircraft patrolling the country's northern no fly zone were again targeted by Iraqi ground fire.