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 Sunday, 5 January, 2003, 19:41 GMT
Iraqi anger over 'intrusive' inspectors
UN weapons inspectors in Iraq
Inspectors are at work across Iraq
Two senior Iraqi officials have reacted angrily after being held for several hours at a site in Baghdad that was sealed off and searched by United Nations weapons inspectors.

The incident came as the weapons inspectors widened and intensified their searches within the country.

Arrow interceptor missile
Israel carried out a test of its anti-missile system
The focus of one search in Baghdad was a chemical research facility at a complex that also houses the headquarters of Iraqi officials whose job it is to co-ordinate with the UN.

General Hossam Mohammad Amin, the head of Iraq's own arms monitoring directorate, and the visiting Iraqi UN ambassador, Mohammad al-Douri, were among those detained during the search.

For about six hours, the inspectors prevented anyone entering or leaving the site, as they filmed and searched cars - as well as looking inside handbags.

Mr al-Douri told reporters that the behaviour of the inspectors was unacceptable and that they should allow people to go in and out in a more civilised way.

General Amin described the move as "maximum intrusiveness", but said Iraq did not want to complain officially in case it was interpreted as opposition to the search itself.

Deadline

The BBC's Caroline Hawley says there are now just over three weeks left before the inspectors have to report back to the UN Security Council, and Iraq is anxious to be judged to be co-operating fully.

UN teams are now at work from Basra in the far south of Iraq to Mosul in the north, where they have just set up a regional base.

Our correspondent says that five-and-a-half weeks into their searches, there is no sign so far that they have found any incriminating evidence.

Inspectors are enforcing the UN Security Council resolution 1441, which orders Iraq to reveal any chemical, biological or nuclear programmes or long-range missile projects. Baghdad denies having such programmes or weapons.

Missile test

Sunday also saw Israel carry out a test launch of its Arrow missile interceptors as part of its preparations for a potential US-led war in Iraq.

The missiles were fired westward over the Mediterranean from a coastal military base at Palmachim, south of Tel Aviv, witnesses said.

US MILITARY BUILD-UP
60,000 troops currently stationed in Gulf
About 28,500 extra troops to be deployed in coming weeks
Aircraft carrier USS Constellation is in the Gulf, while USS Harry S Truman is in the Mediterranean
Biggest regional build-up since the 1991 Gulf War

Four of the interceptors were fired at once - the first time a salvo has been launched - and Israeli media have reported the test was a success, although the military has said the results have to be fully evaluated.

It is hoped that the Arrow, the most advanced missile defence system of its kind in the world, will bring down Scud missiles in the event of an aerial attack by Iraq.

Israel's missile launch is its biggest test so far of the new air defence system - established in the wake of the 1991 Gulf War when Israel was hit by almost 40 Iraqi Scud missiles.

Although the Arrow system has been hugely expensive, some experts say it is still not sufficient to protect Israel's population from attack.

A civilian protection programme has also been set up to avoid the panic that caused chaos and several deaths during the previous conflict.

The test coincides with a Turkish newspaper report that says Turkey has positioned tanks in the Kurdish area of northern Iraq in apparent expectation of a conflict.

Turkey's Prime Minister Abdullah Gul is continuing his efforts to find a diplomatic resolution to the conflict over Iraq, holding talks with Arab neighbours.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Caroline Hawley in Amman
"The site director was trapped inside for several hours"

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05 Jan 03 | Middle East
03 Jan 03 | Middle East
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