BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Persian Pashto Turkish French
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Middle East  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS
Tuesday, 1 October, 2002, 20:05 GMT 21:05 UK
Presidential sites - a 'deal-breaker'


The exclusion of the so called "presidential sites" from the discussions in Vienna on the return of the weapons inspectors means that a major problem - potentially a deal-breaker - is unresolved.

The Vienna talks did not deal with them because they were the subject of a special agreement between the UN and Iraq in 1998.

The United States and Britain are now demanding what they describe as "unfettered" access to all sites.

If they continue to include presidential sites in this definition and Iraq refuses, then it could be a cause for breakdown - and a cause for war.

If they make an exception for presidential sites, it would undermine their own charges that Iraq uses these places to hide forbidden weapons.

Significant

The recently published British dossier on Iraq claimed: "Many of these so-called palaces are in fact large compounds which are an integral part of Iraqi counter-measures designed to hide weapons material."

So they are still regarded as potentially significant.

Click here to see map of key sites

The presidential sites - eight in number - were the subject of a special agreement between the UN and Iraq in early 1998.

The UN Secretary General Kofi Annan flew to Baghdad himself to meet Saddam Hussein. He did so because Iraq had suddenly refused access to the sites even though they were not given any special protection in the original UN resolutions.

It was agreed that a special procedure should apply to them.

  • Any inspections of such sites had to be ordered by the heads of the inspection commission (at the time it was Unscom) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). That meant that inspections could not be left to the teams on the ground in Iraq.

  • The inspectors had to be specially chosen for specific tasks by the heads of the two agencies. That was supposed to allay Iraqi fears that spies would be among the inspectors.

  • The Iraqis had to be notified of the date of inspection in advance.

  • A special group of senior diplomats would be chosen by the UN to observe the inspections.

That was agreed on 23 February 1998.

Nothing found

An inspection was ordered for 25 March and a subsequent UN report noted that "Iraq had over a month to make whatever preparations it desired."

A team of just over 70 inspectors from 11 countries assembled in Bahrain and flew into Iraq.

From 25 March to 4 April, they visited all eight sites and inspected 1,000 buildings.

Their report said that the main purpose of the visits was to draw up a database and to gain a better understanding of the sites.

The inspection, the report said, "was not intended to be a search for prohibited material and none was found".

In fact, there was little equipment or documentation anywhere.

"It is clearly apparent that all sites had undergone extensive evacuation," the report said.

"The buildings were largely empty."

Iraq said that they had cleared the sites in anticipation of air strikes.

Later that year, the inspection teams ran into other problems with the Iraqis and were pulled out.

They have not been back.


Open in new window : Iraq spotlight
Click to see maps of Iraq's suspected weapons sites

Click here to return


Key stories

Analysis

CLICKABLE GUIDE

BBC WORLD SERVICE

AUDIO VIDEO

TALKING POINT
See also:

01 Oct 02 | Middle East
01 Oct 02 | Middle East
30 Sep 02 | Middle East
30 Sep 02 | Middle East
30 Sep 02 | Americas
30 Sep 02 | Middle East
30 Sep 02 | Europe
30 Sep 02 | Europe
19 Sep 02 | Europe
29 Sep 02 | Middle East
01 Oct 02 | Middle East
01 Oct 02 | Middle East
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Middle East stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Middle East stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes