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UN Inspectors Examine Sites Around Baghdad - 2002-12-15

U.N. weapons inspectors examined several sites in and around Baghdad Sunday in their search for weapons of mass destruction. At the same time, a well-known American actor is making his own tour of the Iraqi capital.

Weapons inspectors returned to several sites including a former nuclear research center, a facility reported to have produced long-range scud missile components and a complex the Central Intelligence Agency said has been used to produce chemical and biological weapons

The inspectors were interested in computer-controlled precision engineering equipment at the missile complex. It was said the tools could manufacture gas centrifuges which are used to enrich uranium to bomb-grade levels.

As has been their practice since resuming inspections November 27, the weapons inspectors made no comment on their findings.

One hundred thirteen weapons inspectors are now in Iraq and more are due to arrive soon, allowing the number of surprise inspections to rise.

In the meantime, American actor Sean Penn said he has gone to Baghdad as part of his commitment to finding an alternative to possible war.

Mr. Penn is in Iraq on a three day visit. He said he believes war can be avoided but only through an "enormous commitment" on the part of the Iraqi people and the United States.

He said he fears technology and desperation in the world could lead to the first century that will "complete itself without mankind." He said he doesn't want that future for his children or their children.

In October, Mr. Penn paid $56,000 for an open letter in the Washington Post in which he urged U.S. President George W. Bush to stop a cycle of bombing and killing. He suggested a pre-emptive attack on a foreign soil might prove to be only what he called "temporary medicine."

The actor has toured a hospital in Baghdad and met with Iraqi officials including Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz.