U.N. Team in Iraq to Assess Nuclear Stockpile


The leader of a United Nations cease-fire inspection team said on arrival here Wednesday that he has "received assurances" of access to all Iraqi nuclear stocks.

Dmitri Perricos, an inspector-general from the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, would not disclose the source of the assurances but said his technical team of 34 experts expects to inventory the complete store, including "nuclear weapons-usable material."

The survey is the first mission mandated under the Gulf War cease-fire resolution, which requires the elimination of Iraqi nuclear, chemical and biological weapons before economic sanctions are lifted. Baghdad has denied that it has or is making nuclear or biological weapons, but the State Department has described the claim as "short of reality."

Perricos told reporters that the inspection will begin immediately at a nuclear research facility at Tuwaitha, outside Baghdad.

"We are going to visit all the locations where the nuclear material is now located," he said. Western intelligence officials contend that at least some nuclear stocks were moved during the Gulf crisis, a charge denied by Baghdad.

The technicians will stay for one week, Perricos said, adding, "No doubt we will have to come back."

IAEA inspectors have visited Iraq regularly on safeguard inspections to prevent the transfer of nuclear materials, but "this is not a safeguard inspection," Perricos said.

Other U.N. inspection teams will later examine Iraq's chemical, biological and missile facilities under the cease-fire provisions, said Derek Boothby, a U.N. disarmament official who accompanied Perricos. The inspection team is made up of experts from the IAEA and a special commission set up by the Security Council to verify Iraqi compliance with the cease-fire accords that ended the six-week Persian Gulf War.

Perricos, reluctant to discuss details of this first mission, said, "We are a technical team expecting to meet technical people," adding that he does not plan to confer with the Iraqi political leadership.

Boothby, the disarmament official, said the experts will assess the condition of the Iraqi nuclear facilities, which were early targets of allied bombing raids over Iraq. American officials claimed at the time that the Iraqi capability to manufacture nuclear weapons had been destroyed, but the fate of the fissionable material, some of it considered weapons-grade, is unknown.

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