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 Wednesday, 8 January, 2003, 15:44 GMT
Iraq inspectors prepare report
Medical students pass a UN car at the Saddam Medical College
Weapons teams checked Saddam Medical College
United Nations weapons teams have checked another eight suspect sites across Iraq amid fresh allegations that they are Western spies.

Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz renewed the attack on the inspectors, reiterating Saddam Hussein's contention that they are looking for commercial and military secrets, not banned weapons.

Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz
The aggressors in Washington and London are preparing for a devastating aggression against... the people of Iraq

Tariq Aziz,
Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister
The chief inspector, Hans Blix, is preparing a further briefing on Iraq's weapons declaration for the Security Council on Thursday.

Military and diplomatic moves are also continuing, with some nations preparing for war while others hope for peace.

The inspectors - now equipped with helicopters to reach sites quickly - conducted surprise inspections at eight sites on Wednesday.

Chemical and biological weapons experts visited four of the sites, including the al-Tareq Public Company in Fallujah, 90 kilometres (55 miles) north-west of Baghdad.

The facility, known as Fallujah II, was allegedly a precursor production facility for chemical weapons.

The factory's chief, Saad Hazem, told reporters the site was a chlorine plant which had been visited six times by the inspectors in recent weeks.

"This is a civilian production facility. There is no military production here," he said.

The other four sites - including three cement factories in southern Iraq - were visited by nuclear and other experts.

Iraq has complied with the work of the inspectors who were sent back after the UN Security Council passed a unanimous resolution for Baghdad to show it had disarmed or face possible military action.

But there have been complaints that the inspectors have been overly intrusive, culminating in accusations by President Saddam Hussein this week that much of their doing was "pure intelligence work".

Mr Aziz repeated the claim that the inspectors were searching for something other than banned nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

"They are searching for other information, information about the Iraqi conventional military capability, information about the Iraqi scientific and industrial capability in the civilian area, and also espionage questions," he told a visiting delegation from South Africa.

Inspection briefing

But despite the complaints that the inspectors are simply doing groundwork for an American invasion to seize Iraq's oil reserves, officials are continuing to co-operate, a UN spokesman said.

Mr Blix is expected to give further analysis of Iraq's weapons declaration in a closed-door meeting of the Security Council on Thursday.

He has already identified apparent gaps in what Iraq is believed to possess and what it admitted to in the 12,000-page document submitted to the UN as demanded by the Security Council.

Mr Aziz said the United States and Britain wanted war against Iraq, no matter what it did.

"The aggressors in Washington and London are preparing for a devastating aggression against... the people of Iraq and they would like once again to destroy the City of Peace [Baghdad] as they did in 1991," he said.

Peace moves

A European Union mission headed by Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou will visit seven Arab nations in an effort to avert war, it was announced.

Britain's Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon, meanwhile, was in Ankara to discuss the possible use of Turkish bases and airspace should there be conflict.

Both Britain and the US have been deploying more troops and resources to the Gulf region.

But UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said again on Wednesday that final decisions on war had not been taken.

The findings of inspectors - to be delivered to the UN both on Thursday and in a report on 27 January - remain crucial though there would still be interpretation of the results by the international community, he told MPs in the House of Commons.


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08 Jan 03 | Middle East
07 Jan 03 | Middle East
07 Jan 03 | Middle East
07 Jan 03 | Middle East
07 Jan 03 | Politics
06 Jan 03 | Middle East
08 Jan 03 | Middle East
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