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Thursday, June 3, 1999 Published at 01:19 GMT 02:19 UK


World: Middle East

UN advised to send team to Iraq

When weapons inspectors left Iraq they were not allowed back

A United Nations team should be sent to Iraq to dispose of samples left in Baghdad by weapons inspectors, the UN's chief inspector has recommended.

Richard Butler says the chemical and biological samples were left behind when his team withdrew ahead of renewed air strikes against Iraq in December 1998.


[ image: Rockets armed with chemicals are prepared for destruction]
Rockets armed with chemicals are prepared for destruction
The samples, kept in a UN laboratory, had either been recovered from Iraqi weapons or used to calibrate laboratory equipment.

Mr Butler, who is in charge of dismantling Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, recommended the new mission after Russia's UN ambassador expressed concern at the potential threat posed by the chemical agents.

Sergei Lavrov called for an unbiased team to be sent to Baghdad to remove and neutralise the chemical and biological agents, which include mustard gas.

In a written response to Russia's statement, Mr Butler said senior weapons inspectors believed the UN should make arrangements with Baghdad for dismantling the laboratory.

But Mr Butler said the samples "do not represent a threat, even in case of an accident".

Inspectors banned

Since the air strikes Iraq has refused to allow weapons inspectors into the country.

Mr Butler suggested that Iraq should be asked to help remove the mustard gas samples as it would be safer to destroy them in the country.

Some Western diplomats have dismissed Russia's alarm as a tactic to embarrass the weapons inspection team, known as Unscom, and its chief.

Russia and China have previously called for Unscom to be abolished and for Mr Butler to be sacked. He is leaving his post on 30 June when his contract ends.

US officials say Washington views the issue as a technical matter, which should be resolved by Unscom and the UN secretariat.



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