UN Inspection Team Hails Compromise From Iraqi Leadership
UNITED NATIONS, N.Y.
A TENSE week-long standoff between Iraq and a United Nations inspection team hunting for clues to the whereabouts of Iraq's most dangerous weapons ended late Friday after concessions to accommodate Iraqi government demands.The head of the UN special commission, Swedish diplomat Rolf Ekeus, told journalists that the Iraqi-proposed arrangements appeared to be "constructive" and that his concessions were modest. He indicated he felt "much more optimistic than before" that UN inspection teams could complete their tasks. Agreement had been reached, he said, on three points: * Paper documents copied during the second inspection would be jointly cataloged. * Videotapes would be copied by the UN inspectors, but in the presence of Iraqi representatives, and Iraq would get copies. * Photographic films will be developed at the team's regional headquarters in Bahrain, but their contents will be recorded and the Iraqi government informed. President Bush told the UN last Monday there would be no compromise in seeing "that Iraq destroys all of its weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them." Iraqi Foreign Minister Ahmed Hussein said in a speech to the UN Friday that the US-coalition's attack on Iraq earlier this year was designed "to weaken Iraq, undermine its sovereignty and humiliate its people.... Did the liberation of Kuwait require the destruction of Iraq?" He gave no indication as to whether Iraq would accept the terms approved by the UN Security Council for selling $1.6 billion worth of oil. Two-thirds of the proceeds would be used for humanitarian purchases. On Monday, a UN team of nuclear experts conducted a surprise inspection to a building next to Baghdad's Al-Rashid Hotel where archives containing information on Iraq's nuclear program were temporarily being stored. Ambassador Ekeus said the archives furnished the first documentary proof to support the commission's suspicion that Iraq had been trying to develop nuclear weapons. UN inspectors worked their way through the archives using photographic equipment before they were expelled from the site. Iraqi officials promised to deliver all the material to the UN team later at their hotel across town. But when it arrived, the UN inspectors reported several items missing. On Tuesday, the UN inspection team suddenly showed up at a small government records office in a compound near their hotel. This time, the inspectors vowed not to leave without their cache. Ekeus said the papers included personnel files indicating the key scientists and the number of employees in the nuclear program. "The reason we need to see them is to get a picture of the organization, how complex it is, and how it hangs together. It will give us a reasonable picture of its structure," he said. The Iraqi government accused team leader, David Kay, and the nearly 30 other American members of the 44-man team of being CIA agents. The UN Security Council rejected that charge. Ekeus told reporters that the team had loaded the papers into their cars in the parking lot during the standoff - and were sleeping on the documents to make sure they were not whisked away during the night. The siege was broken when Iraqi forces moved away from the parking lot late Friday, after the agreement was reached. The inspectors left the parking lot at dawn Saturday with the papers and returned to their hotel to clean up and rest. Later Saturday, they began working with their Iraqi counterparts to catalog them.