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 Thursday, 26 December, 2002, 12:35 GMT
Nato chief defends Bush on Iraq
UN inspectors arrive at liquid gas factory at Al-Taji
Inspectors say Iraq's arms declaration is incomplete
Nato's secretary general has defended the Bush administration's policy on Iraq saying there is no question of the Americans taking unilateral military action.

Lord Robertson told the BBC's Today programme that President George W Bush had so far kept rigidly to the United Nations route to disarming Iraq.

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He also warned that Nato members are morally obliged to give the US whatever help it requires if the process of weapons inspections breaks down and the UN decides to launch military action against Iraq.

The UN hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq is continuing without a break over the Christmas period.

Weapons inspectors interviewed an Iraqi scientist at Baghdad's Technology University on Thursday.

The 100-minute meeting with the dean of the university marked the second time UN officials have spoken to an Iraqi scientist in their five weeks of inspections.

No bypassing allies

Responding to charges that President Bush is preparing to by-pass the UN on Iraq, Lord Robertson said America could not act alone in the event of war, if only because it needed other states for airspace and bases.

The American leader, he said, had been quietly building an international coalition which might be required if Saddam Hussein failed to comply with UN demands.

He added that Nato members' obligation to help Washington followed an agreement reached at the Prague summit this autumn.

Search goes on

UN weapons inspectors visited seven sites in Iraq on Christmas Day, saying they would not stop for the holiday.

"They are in Baghdad to work and they will work their butts off as long as they are there," Mark Gwozdecky, a spokesman for the International Atomic Energy Agency, said.

Biological weapons experts inspected a liquid gas company and chemical experts went to a paper factory.

Also inspected were two explosives factories and a factory for making weapons parts, and two military storage facilities.

Aid concern

Relief agencies have begun preparations for war in Iraq, fearing that military action will only aggravate the suffering of ordinary Iraqis.

One, the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (Cafod), estimates that a US-led attack could result in between 10,000 and 100,000 civilian deaths, including deaths from disease and population displacement.

Iraqi child in hospital with her mother
Children already fall sick due to inadequate water and sanitation systems
A spokesman for Save the Children UK said one major concern was the effect of war on infrastructure such as electricity, water, sewerage and hospitals - facilities already exhausted by a decade of tough UN trade sanctions.

Speaking by satellite phone from northern Iraq, Brendan Paddy told Reuters that it was all too easy to overlook the humanitarian fallout of any war.

"The important thing is that people do not lightly dismiss the likely humanitarian consequences of any military action on a society where people are so vulnerable.

"For the people I've been speaking to, there's a slightly different concern and that's that people not forget that they are more than just pawns in some larger game."

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Caroline Hawley
"Iraq again insisting that the inspectors will find nothing"
  Nato's secretary-general Lord Robertson
"Nato matters more now than it has for many years"

Key stories

Analysis

CLICKABLE GUIDE

BBC WORLD SERVICE

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TALKING POINT
 VOTE RESULTS
Iraq: Is war inevitable?

Yes
 58.14% 

No
 41.86% 

74035 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

See also:

26 Dec 02 | South Asia
25 Dec 02 | Europe
25 Dec 02 | Middle East
24 Dec 02 | Middle East
22 Dec 02 | Middle East
22 Dec 02 | Middle East
27 Nov 02 | Middle East
23 Dec 02 | Middle East
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