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Monday, 18 November, 2002, 10:32 GMT
Arms inspectors arrive in Iraq
An Iraqi woman explains to her daughter look at a painting expressing anti-U.S ideas at Saddam Art Centre in Baghdad,.
The Iraqis are mocking tough talk from the US
An advance team of United Nations weapons inspectors has arrived in Baghdad to begin implementing a tough new UN mandate aimed at disarming Iraq.

Chief weapons inspector Hans Blix and Mohammed el-Baradei, his counterpart from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), are to hold a series of meetings with Iraqi Government officials.


This is an opportunity for peace. I hope Iraq will make full use of it.

IAEA director Mohamed El Baradei

Their 25-strong team will be trying to assess what has happened in the four years since UN inspectors left Iraq and will pave the way for fresh inspections due to start later this month.

"We are on our way to a new chapter of inspections in Iraq," Mr Blix said on Sunday, during a joint news conference with Mr El Baradei at Cyprus's Larnaca airport.

Dr Blix has said that even the best-hidden weapons can now be detected with new technology, but sceptics say that Iraq has had four years to prepare for them.

Iraq insists that all suggestions that it has developed or acquired new weapons of mass destruction are baseless.

But the US remains convinced that Baghdad has continued to import and develop chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

While Dr Blix is meeting officials, other members of his team will organise vehicles to transport inspectors around Iraq and set up a logistical and communications base in Baghdad.


We have given instructions to all responsible people to respond immediately to any request to enter their sites and inspect them

Tariq Aziz
Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister

The BBC's Greg Barrow, at the United Nations, says this is the easy part, and that the drama will start when inspections begin - which could be as early as next week.

When asked how sure he would be that Iraq was not concealing weapons, Mr El Baradei said: "We do not take 'no' for an answer. We have to verify a 'no' is actually a 'no'.

"This is an opportunity for peace. I hope Iraq will make full use of it," he said.

Compliance

The American Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, has indicated there will be no hasty action against Iraq.

He said the international community would wait for a pattern of behaviour to emerge before deciding what action to take.

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

He was responding to suggestions that Iraq's continued firing on US and British planes patrolling no-fly zones constituted a violation of the UN resolution.

Meanwhile, Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz said his government was ready to comply fully with the arms inspectors.

"We will provide immediate access," he told London Weekend Television's Jonathan Dimbleby programme on Sunday.

Mohamed El Baradei (left) and Hans Blix
El Baradei and Blix expect Iraq to cooperate
"We have given instructions to all responsible people and many government areas to respond immediately to any request to enter their sites and inspect them."

But Mr Aziz added that inspectors should not think they could just walk into sites.

"When you go to a site, the site has a gate. The gate has to be opened and (the person) who opens the gate should know who is coming. This is common sense," he said.

Logistics

Mr Blix said even a 30-minute delay in granting access to a suspect site would be regarded as a serious violation.
Poster of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in Baghdad
Iraq is preparing for the UN's arrival

He said formal inspections start on 27 November, and he expected to have 100 inspectors in Iraq by the end of the year.

The first significant test is an 8 December deadline for Iraq to submit a full account of all its banned weapons programmes.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Lucy Atherton
"It will be the most intrusive system of inspections Iraq has had"
Jack Straw, UK foreign secretary
"This is Saddam Hussein's final opportunity to comply with the international community"
Olivia Bosch, former UN weapons inspector
"The threat of use of force is still there"

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17 Nov 02 | Americas
15 Nov 02 | Americas
14 Nov 02 | Middle East
15 Nov 02 | Middle East
14 Nov 02 | Middle East
14 Nov 02 | Middle East
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