Wednesday, December 16, 1998 Published at 12:39 GMT
UN orders out inspectors
The UN is evacuating all weapons monitors
The move follows a hard-hitting report by chief UN weapons inspector, Richard Butler, accusing Saddam Hussein of breaking his promises to cooperate fully with weapons monitors.
Our correspondent in Baghdad, Jeremy Cooke, says it appears the ground is being cleared for possible airstrikes by Britain and the United States.
Some UN humanitarian aid staff are also preparing to travel to neighbouring Jordan - the rest have been told to get ready to leave.
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to consider Mr Butler's report.
Iraq says report full of lies
Mr Butler's report to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan accuses Iraq of continuing to obstruct his staff - despite previous assurances of full cooperation.
But Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz said the document was full of lies and designed to justify military strikes on Baghdad.
Obstacles include documents withheld, inspections blocked, attempts at photography refused and access to officials denied.
Last month, Washington and London both said that any further obstruction of weapons inspections could lead to air strikes with no further warning.
The UK Foreign Secretary Robin Cook refused to be drawn on the likelihood of strikes.
But he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme : ''The really fundamentally serious issue is here we have a brutal dictator who has a proven track record of using chemical weapons and who is still continuing to acquire the capacity for chemical and biological weapons. And that cannot be allowed to continue.''
Mr Butler's report will not be made public until after it has been released to the UN Security Council - possibly later on Wednesday.
However, Professor Tony Cordesman, a Middle East analyst in Washington, says it is highly unlikely an attack would be launched during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which begins in about four days' time.
One crisis to another
The last crisis came to an end on 14 November when Iraq agreed to fully co-operate with Unscom weapons inspectors just hours before the US and UK planned airstrikes.
Since then, Iraq has refused to hand over documents requested by Mr Butler, saying they either do not exist or have already been given to inspectors.
And last week Unscom said it had been refused entry to the offices of the ruling Ba'ath Party in Baghdad.
The UN will only lift sanctions if it is satisfied Iraq no longer has weapons of mass destructions, or long-range missiles.