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Iraq: Ivanov Says Inspectors Under Pressure To Back Force Or Leave

Moscow, 20 February 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov today said UN weapons inspectors in Iraq are being pressured to leave or issue reports that would provide a basis for using force to disarm the country. Ivanov did not say who is trying to influence the inspectors. But he said Russia has received information that inspectors are under "very strong pressure."

"According to the information we have, the international weapons inspectors are being put under very strong pressure to leave Iraq, as happened in 1998, or to submit to the UN Security Council assessments that could be used as an excuse for a military operation against Iraq," Ivanov said.

Ivanov also called on Iraq to exhibit complete openness in dealing with inspections. He called on all nations with information concerning Iraq's alleged weapons programs to work with UN inspectors.

In Iraq today, UN inspectors visited facilities involved in the production of the banned Al-Sumud 2 missiles to take inventory. UN diplomats yesterday said chief weapons inspector Hans Blix will likely demand Iraq destroy the missiles.