Teams Target Iraqi Colleges

From Times Wire Services

U.N. inspectors took their hunt for weapons of mass destruction to Iraq's science and technology colleges Monday as Baghdad said it was ready for a war with the United States.

Iraqi officials said U.N. experts drove to nine sites, including two colleges of science and the Technological University in the capital.

The inspectors have intensified visits to colleges across Iraq in the last week as they appear to be preparing to identify more scientists for interviews about weapons programs.

A missile team drove to the Al Amer military site, 54 miles west of Baghdad. A U.N. spokesman said the facility was involved in the assembly of Scud missile components before the 1991 Persian Gulf War but has since been responsible for producing artillery components.

He said a multidisciplinary team inspected an airstrip and a bombing range in Al Muhammadiyat, about 125 miles west of Baghdad. Nuclear experts visited the Al Tuwaitha plant and Ibn Rushd facility, both outside the capital, as well as the University of Technology.

Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and chief weapons inspector Hans Blix are to meet with Iraqi officials in Baghdad on Sunday to discuss what the two men say are gaps in Iraq's written declaration on its weapons programs.

Blix and ElBaradei are to make a key report to the U.N. Security Council on Jan. 27 on the progress of inspections.

Blix said 60 new inspectors, most of them Americans and Arabs, began training Monday and would soon bring his total inspection team to nearly 200.

"I'm upscaling as fast as I can" in response to Security Council directives, Blix said. "The Pentagon may not be impressed by my numbers [or] by what we're doing.... But there's a limit to how many inspections you can do in a day."

Baghdad insists that it does not have weapons of mass destruction, but U.S. government officials say it does and have threatened military action if Iraq does not disarm.

Iraq's ruling Baath Socialist Party newspaper Al Thawra said Monday that Baghdad is ready for an attack.

"Iraqis are preparing for the worst as they are undergoing [military] training as if the aggression is happening tomorrow," the paper said. "They know how to fight the aggressors."

Meanwhile Monday, Iraq said six people were wounded when U.S. and British planes patrolling a "no-fly" zone bombed civilian targets in Basra, 275 miles southeast of Baghdad.

The U.S. said the aircraft attacked an Iraqi anti-ship missile launcher. The military said the launcher was a threat to U.S. and allied vessels in the Persian Gulf.

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