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Wednesday, 4 December, 2002, 02:21 GMT
Iraq 'to present weapons dossier'
UN car at Bakuba
The UN team is entering its sixth day of work
Iraq has said it will submit a declaration on its alleged programme of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons on 7 December - a day ahead of a key United Nations deadline.

"We are going to deliver this declaration in the proper time," said Hussam Mohammed Amin, the chief Iraqi official dealing with the UN weapons inspectors in Iraq.

The United States knows that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction

Donald Rumsfeld, US Defence Secretary
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan welcomed Iraq's co-operation so far, but said it was too early to draw conclusions about the level of Baghdad's compliance.

His words came amid more warnings from Washington that the UN faces a choice about whether or not to hold Iraq to its obligations.

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said America knew Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and it was up to Baghdad to prove otherwise.

His announcement echoed an earlier one by President George Bush, who on Monday said Iraq must supply a "credible and complete list" of its weaponry.

Among the inspectors' targets on Tuesday was one of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's presidential sites - the Sijood palace in the Karkh district of Baghdad, which was searched for about two hours.

UN's choice

A tough UN resolution last month set an 8 December deadline for Iraq to present the document on what the US says is its programme of developing weapons of mass destruction - or risk "serious consequences".

UN vehicle outside the Sijood palace
UN inspectors are stepping up the element of surprise

On Monday, President Bush said he was not encouraged by the signs so far.

The United States has said Iraq must disarm or be disarmed through military action by a US-led "coalition of the willing".

UN members also faced a choice, Mr Rumsfeld said:

"When the Iraqis send in their declaration, if it is false will the UN continue the pattern of the past of allowing Iraq to ignore Iraqi resolutions? Or will the member countries hold Iraq to their obligations?"

'New elements'

Mr Annan cautioned against judging Iraqi co-operation on the basis of a single week's work.

"This is not a one-week wonder," he said.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan
Annan: "Too early to judge Iraq's level of co-operation"

"It [the palace inspection] is a good indication that the Iraqis are co-operating but... this is only the beginning," he said.

"They [Iraqi leaders] have to sustain the co-operation and the effort and perform. We will have to wait for the report from the inspectors."

For Iraq, Mr Amin said the declaration would include "new elements".

"But these new elements will not necessarily include a declaration of the presence of weapons of mass destruction," he said.

He added that Iraq was "devoid of weapons of mass destruction".

In his speech on Monday, President Bush said he was not encouraged by Iraq's reaction so far to the UN weapons inspections.

Surprise visit

Tuesday's inspections began with a UN team arriving without warning at the Sijood palace - one of eight sprawling presidential sites that are high on the list of suspected hiding places for banned weaponry.

The BBC's Ben Brown in Baghdad says the inspectors waited for 10 minutes outside the compound, where there was shouting, arguing and confusion - but eventually the huge iron gates swung open.

At the same time, a second team arrived at a back gate of the palace.

The inspectors spent almost two hours searching darkened corridors and broom cupboards with torches, even looking inside the palace fridge.

Our correspondent says the visit to a palace is a symbolic act, showing that the weapons inspectors mean business this time around.

Members of the previous arms inspection regime were barred from entering presidential sites without advance warning and a diplomatic escort, before inspectors were eventually withdrawn in 1998.

The BBC's Ben Brown
"This was always going to be a crunch test for the inspectors"
Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General
"They have to sustain the co-operation"

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See also:

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