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Sunday, December 13, 1998 Published at 18:48 GMT

World: Middle East

'Challenge inspections' winding down

Iraq agreed to full and unfettered access to all sites

Visiting United Nations teams of biological and chemical weapons experts are winding down their operations in Iraq.

BBC Correspondent Jeremy Cooke: The inspectors have completed an intensive period of work
The inspectors are due to report back to the UN on Baghdad's compliance in the month since, under the threat of air strikes, it allowed them to resume work.

The report will play a key role in determining a comprehensive review of UN sanctions imposed on Iraq eight years ago.

They have been carrying out so-called challenge inspections to check Iraqi premises for weapons declared illegal by the UN.

The inspections were designed to test President Saddam Hussein's promise to allow inspectors full and unfettered access to any site in the country.

Experts on the week-long mission were working alongside more than 100 permanent weapons monitors remaining in Iraq full-time.

Some inspectors have already left the country, and the rest will follow over the coming days.

The team that became embroiled in a dispute on Wednesday has already left.

Inspectors were refused access to offices belonging to the ruling Ba'ath Party.

The Iraqi government says such sites are private and not covered by its agreement with the UN.

But the chief UN weapons inspector, Richard Butler, has already indicated that he regards the matter as very serious.

The United States and Britain have previously insisted that any obstruction of the weapons inspectors could mean air strikes on Iraq with no further notice.

Richard Butler is to give details of the incident and other problems faced by Unscom when he reports to the Security Council in New York this week.

A spokeswoman for the UN said a report on the mission would probably be ready for the UN secretary-general by the end of the week.

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