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Friday, June 25, 1999 Published at 00:34 GMT 01:34 UK

World: Middle East

Iraq allows back UN experts

United Nations weapons inspectors left in December shortly before air strikes

Iraq has agreed to allow a team of experts to remove toxic substances left behind in Baghdad by United Nations disarmament inspectors.

The team is expected to be made up of independent experts and UN staff but will exclude any members connected with the weapons inspectors.

The Unscom team, whose job it was to monitor Baghdad's weapons capability, left behind a variety of chemical substances in their laboratories when they left in December.

The new UN team is expected to go to Baghdad within the next two weeks to check the safety of these substances.

Unscom says at least a kilogram of Iraqi-made mustard gas was left in the laboratories.

Smaller quantities of chemicals used to check the inspectors' testing equipment were also abandoned.

Iraqi authorities to be consulted

A UN official in Baghdad said he believed the team would take about a week to complete its work and would either take the substances out of Iraq or destroy them within the laboratories.

He said they would carry out their work in co-operation and consultation with the Iraqi authorities.

The new team is likely to be made up of a doctor, independent experts, UN staff and two or three diplomatic observers.

Russia raised the question of the chemical substances with the Security Council, saying they may be dangerous.

The weapons inspectors left before the US and the UK launched air strikes against Iraq in December and they have not been allowed back by President Saddam Hussein's government.

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