U.N. arms inspectors hunting for evidence of banned weapons searched four suspect sites Friday in Iraq, including a former ammunition depot used to store chemical weapons before the 1991 Persian Gulf War, a U.N. spokesman said.
The depot is more than 120 miles west of the capital. In the same desert area, the inspectors searched an area used in the 1980s for chemical weapons munitions tests, the spokesman said. Both sites had been visited by previous inspection teams.
Another team inspected the Al Mamoun plant of Al Rashid State Co., about 40 miles south of Baghdad, which is involved in the manufacturing of mechanical parts for solid-propellant rockets.
A chemical team inspected Al Basil Co. in Al Nahrawan, east of Baghdad. The facility consists of several pilot plants involved in the production of chemicals.
A unanimous U.N. Security Council resolution passed in November ordered Baghdad to reveal all details of its weapons programs. The resolution opened the way for inspectors to return to Iraq for the first time in four years.
Iraq denies having any biological, chemical or nuclear weapons.
U.S. preparations continued in case a war is fought. The Pentagon ordered the deployment of some “elements” of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force to the Persian Gulf, said 1st Lt. Dan Rawson, a spokesman at Camp Pendleton. He said he could not confirm the number deployed or their exact destination.
U.N. chief weapons inspector Hans Blix is due to visit Baghdad in the third week of January, shortly before a scheduled Jan. 27 report to the Security Council.
On Friday, Blix said the Iraqis were cooperating with inspectors on the ground. But there are “questions that have arisen as a result of [Iraq’s] long [weapons] declaration ... and we’d like to follow up some of those,” he said.
He also said samples were being taken for laboratory analysis.