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Friday, April 3, 1998 Published at 22:11 GMT 23:11 UK

World: Middle East

Iraq: UN inspectors end initial searches

The inspections were a success

United Nations weapons experts in Iraq have completed their initial inspections of the eight presidential sites with a visit to President Saddam Hussein's main palace in Baghdad.

The inspections were a key part of the deal brokered by the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, in February which averted a military confrontation after Iraq had refused to allow the teams full access.

Jayantha Dhanapala of the UN makes a statement to journalists in Baghdad (1'30")
The head of the diplomatic team accompanying the inspectors, Jayantha Dhanapala, said the inspections were a first test of that agreement, and the result was a success.

The Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister, Tariq Aziz, said there had been full Iraqi cooperation. He said the inspections refuted United States and British accusations that the sites contained stockpiles of illegal weapons.

Mr Aziz added that the result made it imperative that the UN Security Council work towards lifting sanctions.

Some of the buildings in the presidential compounds will be subject to further visits by UN inspectors. A BBC correspondent in Baghdad says this is something the Iraqi government is bound to find difficult to accept.

[ image: The UN is still concerned about Iraq's weapons]
The UN is still concerned about Iraq's weapons
The correspondent adds that the Iraqis are likely to find even greater problems with the UN's desire for long-term monitoring of the presidential compounds. This could mean setting up surveillance equipment and cameras, as the inspectors have done at numerous other sites.

Iraq has repeatedly said it has destroyed all its nuclear, chemical and biological weapons in line with UN resolutions passed after the Gulf war in 1991.

However, Unscom, the UN commission charged with disarming Iraq, is not yet satisfied that Iraq has handed over all the details about all its non-conventional weapons.

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