Baghdad, Nov. 26 (Reuters): UN arms inspectors, displaying state-of-the-art equipment for tracking illicit weapons, said today they were ready to head out from Baghdad early tomorrow on their first mission in four years.
The heads of the inspections teams said they would leave no stone unturned on their missions and, unlike their predecessors, had a strong mandate to look at any time inside President Saddam Hussein’s own, sprawling palace compounds.
“The issue of the presidential palaces has been resolved by Resolution 1441,” Dimitri Perricos, leader of the inspections team from the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) told reporters in the Iraqi capital.
“It is not a matter of leaving (the palaces) for last and it's not an issue of being first,” he said.
“They will be visited when it is required and according to plan. And I can assure you we are not going to tell you.”
Inspections would start on Wednesday at about 8.30 am (0530 GMT). Baghdad has vowed to meet a December 8 deadline, set under UN Security Council Resolution 1441, to produce a full account of its weapons programme.
It has said UN weapons inspectors will have free access to all sites. The inspectors must give their first report to the UN Security Council by January 27.
Perricos and Jacques Baute, leader of the nuclear arms inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), spoke about their preparations at Baghdad’s former Canal Hotel, which serves as the inspection team operations centre.
Perricos, a Greek, and Baute, who is French, refused to disclose the first site to be visited.
Some of the equipment to be used, Baute said, includes complex ground-penetrating radars which can uncover underground facilities as well as radioactive isotope detectors.
On display on a table next to them were plastic vials and containers for samples, as well as filters, and other laboratory equipment. Perricos said much of it was more advanced than that used previously.