I'm sure this will prove very helpful. I wonder if the scientist's family is feeling safe.
|Iraq: Scientist Agrees to U.N. Interview |
By HAMZA HENDAWI, Associated Press Writer
BAGHDAD, Iraq - An Iraqi arms expert submitted to a private interview with U.N. weapons inspectors Thursday, a top Iraqi official said hours after the top U.N. nuclear inspector demanded a "drastic change" to improve Iraq's cooperation.
A U.N. spokesman Hiro Ueki, confirmed that a private interview had been scheduled with a biologist this evening, but he offered no further details.
The interview would be the first time a scientist linked to Iraq's weapons programs has spoken to inspectors without Iraqi officials present. Such interviews have been a top demand of U.N. inspectors, hoping the scientists will reveal clandestine weapons programs.
"One of our scientists is being interviewed alone, as we speak," Iraqi presidential adviser Lt. Gen. Amer al-Saadi told a Baghdad press conference. He did not give any details or identify the scientist.
Earlier Thursday, top U.N. nuclear inspector Mohamed ElBaradei demanded Baghdad show greater cooperation, as he and fellow chief inspector Hans Blix briefed British Prime Minister Tony Blair ( news - web sites ) on their way to Baghdad for talks this weekend.
"They need to show drastic change in terms of cooperation," ElBaradei said. "Our mission in Baghdad this weekend is crucial. We hope we will secure full, 100 percent cooperation on the part of Iraq."
Blix and ElBaradei are to present their latest report to the U.N. Security Council on Feb. 14, and Secretary of State Colin Powell ( news - web sites ) said Thursday that their visit to Baghdad would be key to seeing if Iraq intends to cooperate.
In Washington, Powell told senators Thursday that "within weeks" the Iraqi situation will be brought to a conclusion "one way or another."
A day earlier, Powell laid down the U.S. case against Iraq in a speech to the Security Council, presenting tape recording, satellite photos and testimony he said constituted "irrefutable" proof that Iraq was hiding weapons of mass destruction.
Blix and ElBaradei will challenge Iraqi officials to respond to issues raised by Powell at the Security Council Wednesday, said Hiro Ueki, their spokesman. Al-Saadi and other Iraqi officials dismissed Powell's testimony as full of fabrications.
Preparations for a possible U.S.-led war on Iraq moved forward as Turkey's parliament voted to allow the United States to begin renovating military bases and ports, a first step toward opening the way for the deployment of U.S. troops.
NATO ( news - web sites ) gave tentative approval to a U.S. plan to prepare to protect Turkey if it comes under counterattack from Iraq. France, Germany and Belgium had opposed the plan for weeks, but the preparations will begin Monday unless they raise new objections.
Of the 15 Council members, only the United States and Britain have offered unwavering support for forcibly disarming Saddam.
Russia and France, both with veto powers on the council, made clear Thursday that Powell's speech had not changed their minds on Iraq.
"We refuse to think that war is inevitable," President Jacques Chirac said.
In Baghdad on Thursday, al-Saadi made a sweeping attack on Powell's presentation, saying it was directed at the ill-informed. "Where's the smoking gun?" he said at a press conference.
The Iraqis insisted they have already dismantled all programs for biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. "We do not own any banned weapons, nor are we engaged in banned activity, or in deception," senior Iraqi official Hossam Mohamed Amin said. "The inspectors feel and know that."
Powell's presentation was not shown by Iraq's state television, and Thursday's newspapers, which are under tight government control, made no mention of it.
During the 1990s, previous U.N. inspection teams oversaw the destruction of many banned weapons and production programs under U.N. resolutions adopted after Iraq's defeat in the 1991 Gulf War ( news - web sites ). The new inspections, resumed in November after a four-year gap, are aimed at finding leftover weapons and determining whether the Iraqis resumed their production in the inspectors' absence.
After more than 500 inspections, the arms monitors have not produced any major evidence that Iraq has such weapons or maintains the capability to produce them.
Thursday's inspections included a a military engineering academy, a brewery and an army complex that includes a missile site west of Baghdad. They also paid surprise visits to the water and sewage authority and the laboratories of a health care complex in Baghdad. Inspectors returned to a storage facility belonging to Al-Tuwaitha, the center of Iraq's former atomic program south of Baghdad, which they had inspected the day before.
Most U.S. allies want more time for U.N. weapons inspectors to do their work. But President Bush ( news - web sites ) has signaled his impatience with the inspections process and pledged to disarm Iraq forcibly if it does not immediately comply with U.N. resolutions with or without its allies. The United States already has some 100,000 troops amassed in the Gulf region and the number could rise to 180,000 in a matter of weeks.
Britain on Thursday announced it was beefing up its Royal Air Force deployment in the region to 100 aircraft including attack, transport and reconnaissance craft, as well as helicopters for any Iraq war.