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UN Inspectors Continue Hunt for Banned Weapons in Iraq - 2003-01-04

United Nations arms inspectors scattered to the outer regions of Iraq and set up a new base of operations in the north Saturday in their hunt for chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.

Iraqi officials say the U.N. inspectors toured an agricultural college in Basra, 550 kilometers south of the capital, Baghdad. They also visited locations around Baghdad including the al-Mamoun plant, the al-Abour company, which is a maintenance arm of the Iraqi military, and the al-Khalis brewery.

Some members of the U.N. team traveled to the city of Mosul in northern Iraq to set up a permanent base for future inspections of that region. Other specialist teams set off Saturday for unknown search targets, according to Iraqi officials.

The extended weapons search coincides with an increasing build up of U.S. troops in the region. The United States has said that unless Iraq rids itself of any and all weapons of mass destruction, it could face a possible U.S. led attack. President Bush said recently that a war on Iraq would not be to conquer the country but rather to liberate it.

Meanwhile, Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri reportedly said in a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan that the United States is in violation of international law by supporting opposition forces against President Saddam Hussein. Mr. Sabri's comments were published Saturday in the state run newspaper al-Iraqi.

The U.N. weapons inspectors, now in their sixth week in Iraq, are due to deliver an initial report of their findings to the U.N. Security Council on January 27.