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Weapons Inspectors Continue Iraq Probe - 2003-01-13

U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq spent their 45th day searching for banned weapons as a contingent of British troops arrived in Kuwait to prepare for a larger British troop deployment to the Gulf region. Meanwhile, an Iraqi official says Saddam Hussein will stay in power until the last Iraqi bullet is fired.

U.N. chemical weapons experts went to the University of Technology in Baghdad while a U.N. team of biological experts traveled to Baghdad University's College of Sciences and a missile team investigated a military site west of Baghdad.

Weapons inspectors resumed their hunt in Iraq for nuclear, chemical and biological weapons on November 27, and on Monday a spokesman for the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mark Gwozdecky, said the inspection process could take a year to complete. However, the head of the agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, suggested that the process will not last that long. Mr. ElBaradei said while the inspectors need a few more months, the length of time will depend on the cooperation of Iraq. Mr. ElBaradei said there is a great deal of anxiousness in the U.N. Security Council that the inspectors finish their job as soon as possible.

The Security Council is due to receive a report on the progress of the inspection process in two weeks.

In the meantime, British logistical support troops have arrived in Kuwait. Experts from the 102 Logistics Brigade will be responsible for providing transportation and supplies to British ground troops expected to be deployed to the region later this week. Saturday the British aircraft carrier Ark Royal set sail for the Gulf region. Last week, 62,000 U.S. troops were ordered to the Gulf region, doubling the current troop strength in the area.

In an interview with British radio, Iraq's deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz, said Saddam Hussein will never leave his country. Mr. Aziz said the Iraqi leader will stay until the last Iraqi shot is fired. The Iraqi official was responding to numerous calls for Mr. Hussein to resign as a way to avoid war.

Iraq's government-run newspaper al-Thawra said Monday Iraq is preparing itself to face all possibilities and that Saddam Hussein has told his military commanders Iraq would be at an advantage in the event of an attack because Iraqi troops would be fighting on their own soil.

Elsewhere in the region, Arab leaders continue to warn of the consequences of military action against Iraq. In recent days, Jordan's King Abdullah, Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak and Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul said the region would suffer heavy losses in the event of war. The three political leaders said they are urging Iraq to cooperate with U.N. weapons inspectors in an effort to avoid military confrontation.

Iraq insists it has no weapons of mass destruction and U.N. weapons inspectors say, so far, they have not uncovered any evidence that suggests Iraq is in possession of illegal arms.

Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix and IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei are due to arrive in Baghdad next Sunday to, among other things, confront Iraq on what they say are many unanswered questions concerning such items as chemical bombs, missile engines and nerve gas.