USIS Washington 

09 March 1998


(Visits expected to begin in two weeks)  (1020)

By Judy Aita

USIA United Nations Correspondent

United Nations -- A special group of observers, which could include US
and British diplomats, will begin visiting eight presidential sites in
Iraq as part of the UN Special Commission overseeing the destruction
of Iraqi weapons (UNSCOM) teams in about two weeks, senior UN
officials said March 9.

UN Undersecretary General Jayantha Dhanapala, who is the special
UNSCOM commissioner coordinating the diplomatic observers, has sent
letters to UN member nations inviting them to nominate senior
diplomats already based in Baghdad or in the region who would be able
to join the UNSCOM weapons experts.

Dhanapala and UNSCOM Chairman Richard Butler have also given the
Security Council March 9 a seven-page report detailing the procedures
that the special teams to the so-called presidential sites will use.

"They are good procedures which will enable us first and foremost to
implement Security Council resolutions. They will enable us to ensure
that the memorandum of understanding is implemented in both letter and
spirit and that we can ensure that the diplomatic solution crafted by
the Secretary General will, in fact, stick," said one senior UN

The procedures are "simple and they are unambiguous. They will enable
us to do the substantive work of UNSCOM and the IAEA and will do so in
such a way that ensures both sides comport themselves with dignity and
give full respect to the sovereignty and security concerns of Iraq,"
said another UN official.

Both senior UN officials spoke with journalists about the new
procedures and the upcoming inspections on the condition of anonymity.

The two officials explained that the procedures translate the
memorandum of understanding agreed to by Secretary General Kofi Annan
and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein into "practical reality" that will
enable the inspections to begin in a couple of weeks.

On his special diplomatic mission February 21-23 Annan worked out a
"memorandum of understanding" with the Iraqi president that states
Iraq's agreement to allow weapons inspectors "immediate, unconditional
and unrestricted access" to all sites and called for the special
procedures for investigating the presidential sites.

"These first or baseline presidential sites clearly
are being carried out to give effect to the memorandum of
understanding signed by our Secretary General," one official said.
"This is an immensely important document. It has to be put into

Although inspections of the presidential sites probably would have
been called for based on evidence collected by UNSCOM during other
investigations, "the core of the memorandum, in effect, is to get over
to Iraq as soon as possible and do these initial visits to all of the
eight sites," the official said.

"We will be putting together the teams required to do that without
delay," the official said.

Dhanapala has asked that nominations for the diplomatic observers be
at UN headquarters by March 13 so that diplomats can be in Baghdad and
on-call for visits to presidential sites soon thereafter.

The observers will be selected from a list of about 100 that will be
compiled by the Secretary General. While US or British diplomats could
be among the observers, the new procedures will made that difficult.
Neither the US nor Great Britain is among the 40 nations with
embassies in Iraq. However, the UN officials said that they can be
flown in from Bahrain on special UNSCOM flights with weapons experts.

Using senior diplomats housed in Baghdad will allow UNSCOM to maintain
the element of surprise that is used when inspecting other sites in
Iraq and is common in international disarmament verification

Dhanapala will leave for Baghdad March 9 to prepare for the
inspections of the sites, which until Annan's visit to Baghdad had
been strictly off-limits to UNSCOM. According to a special UN survey
team, the sites total about 31.5 square kilometers and contain 1,058

The senior officials said they did not know how long it will take to
complete the baseline inspections. They also indicated that there
would be follow-up visits in the future.

The new teams will operate under the original procedures established
by UNSCOM and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) -- which
visits the nuclear sites -- when the inspections began seven years

However, under the new arrangements, when UNSCOM or IAEA decide to
visit a presidential site, at least two senior diplomatic
representatives will be called upon by Dhanapala to accompany the
weapons experts. Dhanapala, himself, will accompany the teams on their
initial, or "baseline," inspections.

If the teams are divided then Dhanapala will designate one of the
diplomats to act in his place, the UN officials explained.

The functions of the senior diplomats will be "to observe that the
provisions of the Memorandum of Understanding and the present specific
detailed procedures are being implemented in good faith; (and) to
report on any matter they deem appropriate to the functions of the
diplomatic observers," the procedures say.

"Upon entry into a presidential site, the team shall conduct itself in
a manner consonant with the nature of the site," the procedures say.
"It shall take into consideration any observations the Iraqi
representative may wish to make regarding entry into a particular
structure and then decide upon the appropriate course of action. This
shall not, however, impede the ability of the team to fulfill its
tasks as mandated under the relevant Security Council resolutions."

The observers can report any inappropriate activities by either UN
weapons experts or Iraqi officials to Butler, the IAEA director, or
the Secretary General as well as help work out difficulties during the
inspections, but will not be able to stop an inspection, the UN
officials said.

UNSCOM or IAEA will continue to decide what site to visit and when,
who will head the team, what weapons experts to use, and will notify
Baghdad of the inspection and the number of people on the team, they
said. That is the same procedure as had been used in the past.

UNSCOM usually informs Iraq 48 hours in advance about an inspection
but does not give the location.