Inspectors to Get a New Base

From Associated Press

U.N. weapons inspectors began setting up a new office in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Saturday to broaden the range of their searches. Meanwhile, Baghdad said U.S. funding and military training for Iraqi opposition groups violated international law and Iraqi sovereignty.

A team of weapons experts drove from Baghdad to Mosul, 250 miles north of the capital, in a convoy of U.N. vans. The inspectors had already visited sites near the city but then had to return samples and equipment to Baghdad.

The new base "will serve as a convenient location to conduct inspections, particularly in the north," U.N. spokesman Hiro Ueki said. The temporary headquarters will be the Nineveh Palace Hotel until the base is completed.

Baghdad's allegation about Washington interfering in Iraqi affairs came in a letter from Foreign Minister Naji Sabri to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the official daily Al Iraq reported. It said the letter was given to Annan by the Iraqi U.N. mission but did not say when.

Sabri said the U.S. financing and military training of government opponents -- whom he called "mercenaries" -- violated international guarantees on the sovereignty of nations and amounted to aggression against an independent state.

The United States has funneled millions of dollars to Iraqi opposition groups in recent years. In October, the Pentagon announced it would provide military training to thousands of volunteers opposed to the Iraqi regime.

Under U.N. Security Council resolutions, the inspectors must certify that Iraq is free of banned weapons before economic sanctions can be lifted.

On Saturday, the inspectors visited three sites in and around Baghdad and a fourth, the College of Agriculture, in the southern city of Basra, according to Iraqi officials.

The three sites around Baghdad were the Abour Co., a maintenance arm of Iraq's Military Industrialization Corp.; the Al Mamoun plant, which makes missile propellant; and the Khalis alcohol factory, which had not been checked before.

Meanwhile Saturday, the U.S. Central Command said allied aircraft used precision-guided weapons to strike three Iraqi communications sites near Nasiriyah, about 170 miles southeast of Baghdad, "in response to Iraqi hostile acts." It did not specify the acts.

The command also said U.S. and British warplanes dropped 240,000 propaganda leaflets over southern Iraq for the second time in three days, providing radio frequencies that broadcast messages urging Iraqis to oppose President Saddam Hussein.

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