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Iraq: Agency Says Inspections Could Take a Year

Vienna, 13 January 2003 (RFE/RL) -- The UN's nuclear watchdog says that weapons inspections in Iraq could take around a year to complete. Mark Gwozdecky, a spokesman for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told CNN television that this has been the long-held view of chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix and IAEA head Mohamed al-Baradei.

Gwozdecky said Iraq is "a big country" and that the longer the inspectors are there, the more likely they will find something. He said that the Security Council has given the inspectors unanimous support, saying: "They are willing to give us the time that we need."

Gwozdecky's comments come as the United States and Britain over the weekend accelerated their buildup of military forces in the Persian Gulf, with the U.S. dispatching some 60,000 more troops and the British aircraft carrier "Ark Royal" setting sail for the region.

Leaders of Turkey, Iran, Jordan, and Egypt over the weekend urged Iraq to fully cooperate with United Nations arms inspections in order to avert war.