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Iraq: Arms Inspectors Back After Four Years

Larnaca, Cyprus; 18 November 2002 (RFE/RL) -- United Nations arms inspectors are expected to arrive in Iraq today to relaunch searches for banned weapons of mass destruction allegedly held by President Saddam Hussein's regime. Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix and Mohammed El Baradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, are due to fly into Baghdad from Cyprus with some 25 staff members to organize the first arms inspections in Iraq in four years. Blix has said the first preliminary arms inspections are likely to take place by 27 November.

Blix said on 17 November that the question of war or peace rests with both Iraq and the United Nations Security Council. The Security Council earlier this month unanimously approved a resolution that threatens Iraq with "serious consequences" for failing to cooperate with renewed arms inspections.

Blix said his team will report to the Security Council instances of Iraqi cooperation or noncooperation: "We will inspect and we will report cooperation and lack of cooperation, and we will do so objectively to the Security Council. But it is for the council to decide how they assess that lack of cooperation, or cooperation, and to draw the consequences from it. It's not we [inspectors] who do that."

Iraqi officials have promised full cooperation with the arms inspectors, saying the country has no weapons of mass destruction.

There have been no arms inspections in Iraq for four years, since the last team of U.N. inspectors withdrew after accusing Iraq of noncooperation.