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IAEA to Inspect Major Nuclear Installation in Iraq - 2003-06-04


A small team of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency left Vienna for Baghdad to look at a major nuclear installation.

A team of seven IAEA safety inspectors flew out to Kuwait City with 800 kilograms of equipment, full radiation protective gear, and sophisticated detection devices.

The scientists are expected to arrive Friday in Baghdad to begin a two week investigation into reports of looting at the Tuwaitha nuclear site, 50 kilometers south of the capital.

IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said this is not a resumption of the hunt for banned nuclear weapons. "This mission is a mission that falls under Iraq's obligation under the nuclear nonproliferation treaty. It has a legal obligation to accept inspectors, to account for the nuclear material in Iraq. This material was under IAEA seal since 1991 and inspectors went annually to check out whether it had remained in place or whether it had been diverted. It was always there and had not been tampered with and the last inspection was in February. Because of the reports of looting we were asked to go back and do an inventory of this. And this is what it is all about," she said.

The inspectors will see how much radioactive material or uranium is missing or spilled. They plan to put back the seals, secure the facility and head back to Vienna.

The IAEA would like to take environmental samples and examine people reported to be suffering from radiation exposure. But the agency said U.S. officials have not agreed to such work outside specified areas of the large Tuwaitha site.