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Iraq: UN Inspectors Find Warheads For Chemical Weapons

Paris, 17 January 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix travels to Paris and London today, a day after weapons inspectors found warheads designed to carry chemical weapons. Blix will meet with French President Jacques Chirac before traveling on to Britain for talks with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The UN said its inspectors found 11 empty warheads at a military storage area about 120 kilometers south of the capital Baghdad. It was not clear whether the warheads ever contained banned chemicals, but experts have taken samples for testing.

General Hussam Mommmad Amin, the Iraqi official who liaisons with the UN inspectors, said the weapons were old discarded artillery rockets -- not chemical or biological weapons.

The European Union foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, welcomed the finding, saying it was proof the inspections are working.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the U.S. administration was assessing the discovery and would be deliberate about reacting to it. He also said 27 January -- when Blix is due to give his progress report to the UN Security Council -- will be "an important date."

Blix and Mohammad el-Baradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, will go to Iraq on 19 and 20 January for the first time since inspections resumed in late November.

Blix has said he will tell the Iraqis they need to submit new evidence of any weapons of mass destruction to avoid what he called "any worse development."