USIS Washington 

06 March 1998


(UNSCOM's Scott Ritter and team visits three sites)  (780)

By Judy Aita

USIA United Nations Correspondent

United Nations -- U.N. weapons inspectors visited sensitive sites in
Iraq March 6 for the first time since the controversy between Baghdad
and the U.N. escalated in early January.

The team of the U.N. Special Commission overseeing the destruction of
Iraq's weapons (UNSCOM) headed by Scott Ritter visited three sites
that had been declared sensitive by Baghdad without incident, the U.N.

The so-called "sensitive" and "presidential" sites have been the
source of major confrontations between Iraq and the U.N. in the past.
On a special diplomatic mission February 21-23 Secretary General Kofi
Annan worked out a "memorandum of understanding" with Iraqi President
Saddam Hussein that spells out Iraq's agreement to allow weapons
inspectors "immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access" to all
sites and sets up special procedures for investigating eight
presidential sites.

Ritter, an American, has been the subject of many complaints and
criticism by the Iraqi Government. He heads the team which is trying
to uncover Iraq's plans to conceal data, programs and materials on the
banned chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons and ballistic
missiles from other U.N. inspectors.

In January the team had been withdrawn after Iraqi officials refused
to work with the group complaining that there were too many members
from the United States and Great Britain.

Asked about the Secretary General's reaction to the inspections March
6, U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said that "this is what he expected.
That is what he was told by the President of Iraq would happen and he
expected the continued full cooperation of Iraq with these

Other U.N. weapons inspections have been proceeding normally
throughout the year.

U.S. Ambassador Bill Richardson called the news of the inspection

However, Richardson added that the memorandum of understanding between
the UN and Iraq "is going to succeed or fail based on the testing.
There are a number of sensitive and presidential sites that I assume
will be examined in days and weeks ahead."

"It cannot be just a one-shot inspection success. It has to be a
continuous consistent process of clear unfettered access to all sites,
to all documents," the US Ambassador said.

"Scott Ritter and his team resumed inspections in Iraq March 6. They
viewed three sites between 9 A.M. and 7 P.M. local time. All three of
these sites were declared sensitive sites by Iraq; nevertheless there
was full cooperation on the Iraqi side and the inspectors were able to
inspect all of these sites to their full satisfaction," Eckhard said
at the daily briefing for journalists.

"The inspections are essentially the continuation of the work that was
interrupted in January," Eckhard said.

The team, which arrived in Baghdad March 5, includes 50 inspectors
from 11 countries and were joined by additional UNSCOM inspectors
based in Baghdad, the UN spokesman said. The team members are from
Argentina, Australia, Egypt, Germany, Jordan, Netherlands, New
Zealand, Poland, Syria, the United Kingdom and the United States.

UNSCOM has about 100 staff in Baghdad.

The number of inspectors will vary from day-to-day as they carry out
their current round of inspections in Baghdad, depending on the
specific sites that they wish to visit, Eckhard said. The team is
expected to remain in Iraq until about March 11.

Eckhard denied press reports that Ritter's team was sent to Iraq by
UNSCOM Executive Chairman Richard Butler without the Secretary
General's knowledge.

"There was full consultation between Chairman Butler and the Secretary
General," the spokesman said.

Eckhard also announced March 6 that U.N. Undersecretary General
Jayantha Dhanapala will leave for Baghdad March 9 "to prepare the
ground for the activities of the special group" that will visit the
eight presidential sites, which until Annan's visit had been strictly
off-limits to UNSCOM.

In late February Dhanapala was named the UNSCOM commissioner to head
the special inspection group that will include not only UNSCOM weapons
experts but diplomats for the presidential sites.

Eckhard added that the new procedures drawn up by Dhanapala for the
presidential site inspections will be given to the Security Council on
March 9.

The spokesman also confirmed that Annan has been asked by Russia to
appoint a Russian disarmament expert as a deputy to Butler. The
request, in a letter from Russian Ambassador Sergey Lavrov, asked that
the top level of UNSCOM be expanded.

Annan "is still reviewing that letter," Eckhard said.

There is currently only one UNSCOM deputy, Charles Duelfer of the
United States.