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The BBC's Roger Hearing in Baghdad
"The Iraqi authorities will look on this as a public relations coup"
 real 28k

Saturday, 29 July, 2000, 15:12 GMT 16:12 UK
Ex-UN inspector back in Iraq
Iraqi weapons of mass destruction
Iraqi bombs await destruction by the UN
A former United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq, Scott Ritter, has returned to Baghdad to make a documentary film about the suspected weapons sites he once inspected.

Mr Ritter, who was accused by Baghdad of spying for the United States, has said President Saddam Hussein had invited him to judge whether Iraq had rebuilt its arsenal since the UN inspections broke off in late 1998.

I think this documentary film will go a long way toward de-demonising Iraq in the eyes of the American people

Scott Ritter
White House spokesman PJ Crowley said Mr Ritter's trip would provide a propaganda victory for Baghdad, and that his documentary was no substitute for allowing real UN inspectors to do their job.

Iraq has been under a UN embargo since 1991. Under the terms of UN Security Council resolutions, the embargo cannot be lifted until the UN has certified that Iraq has destroyed all its weapons of mass destruction, and a monitoring regime is put in place to ensure that Iraq does not resume building such weapons.

Iraqi invitation

Mr Ritter, a former US Marine who was once vilified by Baghdad, visited suspected weapons manufacturing sights on Saturday at the invitation of the Iraqi Government.

Scott Ritter
Ritter waits to be let into a suspected weapons site back in 1998
The former UN weapons inspector, who backed a US-British bombing campaign against Iraq in December 1998 for not co-operating with the UN, has now concluded that Iraq has in fact disarmed and no longer poses a threat to anyone.

It was Mr Ritter's style of intrusive, surprise inspections of suspected weapons sites and government facilities that provoked the breakdown of Iraq's co-operation with the weapons inspectors.

"I think what we plan to do with this documentary film will go a long way toward de-demonising Iraq in the eyes of the American people and in the eyes of the European people," Mr Ritter said.

'Irresponsible speculation'

"There has been a lot of what I call irresponsible speculation about what Iraq is doing today now that weapons inspectors are not in Iraq," Mr Ritter said.

UN inspectors in Iraq
UN inspectors leave Iraq for the last time in December 1998
He also said that in his opinion, any new UN inspection regime was "doomed to fail".

According to Mr Ritter, he and his camera crew are going to be allowed access to weapons facilities throughout Iraq.

Mr Ritter is also hoping to secure an interview with Saddam Hussein.

New resolution

The UN evacuated its weapons inspectors from Iraq in December 1998 on the eve of a US-British air attacks. Iraq has not allowed weapons inspectors to return since.

A UN resolution passed at the end of last year offered the temporary, and renewable, suspension of sanctions in exchange of full Iraqi co-operation with a new UN arms control programme.

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