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UN Inspectors Find Empty Chemical Warheads in Iraq - 2003-01-16

U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq say they have have discovered empty chemical warheads in a storage area.

U.N. weapons inspectors Thursday found 11 empty 122 millimeter chemical warheads in a group of bunkers, and an additional warhead that, according to U.N. spokesman Hiro Ueki, requires further evaluation.

The warheads were discovered in an ammunition storage area. Mr. Ueki said the inspection team used X-ray equipment to conduct preliminary analysis of one of the warheads, and collected additional samples for chemical testing.

He said the warheads are in excellent condition, and are similar to warheads imported by Iraq in the 1980's. The warheads were discovered in bunkers that were built in the late 1990's.

Mr. Ueki offered no opinion as to the significance of the discovery, but said there needs to be further evaluation and testing.

It is not known at this time if the discovery amounts to a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

In the meantime, with U.N. officials warning that Iraq must take a more active role to prove it has no weapons of mass destruction, an Iraqi official in Baghdad said Iraq is ready to resolve any issues regarding the inspection process and fully cooperate with the inspectors.

Amir al-Saadi, a top aide to President Saddam Hussein, acknowledged there have been recent U.N. complaints that Baghdad had not fully disclosed all of the information weapons inspectors have been seeking. However, he said Iraq expects to resolve the complaints on Sunday and Monday during a visit by chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix and the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei.

Both men said Thursday Iraq must do more to prove it has no nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, if it is to avoid military conflict.

Mr. al-Saadi said there would be full and active cooperation to resolve any questions or complaints.

Weapons inspectors are due to deliver a progress report on their search efforts in the U.N. Security Council on January 27.