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UN interview of Iraqi scientist falls through

UN interview of Iraqi scientist falls through when he seeks alternate format

United Nations weapons inspectors in Iraq who sought to interview one of the country's biological scientists did not hold the discussion after he objected to the format, a UN spokesman in Baghdad reported today.

The individual “showed up for the appointment alone but did not agree to the mode of interview” proposed by the UN Monitoring, Inspection and Verification Commission (UNMOVIC), spokesman Hiro Ueki said.

Meanwhile, the probe into Iraq's prohibited arms programme continued as an UNMOVIC chemical team went to Al Mutanna in order to prepare to destroy 10 155mm artillery shells and four plastic containers filled with mustard gas.

The destruction process will begin tomorrow and is expected to last four to five days, according to Mr. Ueki. “These artillery shells were scheduled to be destroyed by the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) in 1998 but the plan was halted when UNSCOM withdrew from Iraq,” he explained. “UNMOVIC ascertained on 4 December 2002 that these shells were still stored at Al Mutanna.”

For its part, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is looking into Baghdad's clandestine nuclear ambitions, today held “no-notice” inspections at Tuwaitha, 15 kilometres south of Baghdad.

Two mobile air samplers capable of measuring particulate nuclear matter have been deployed around the Iraqi capital for the last four days. “An IAEA team retrieved the two samplers and samples were taken,” Mr. Ueki said. “The samplers will be relocated in new positions tomorrow.”

Another IAEA team conducted a car-borne radiation survey of two military bases and surrounding areas in an area just south of Baghdad.

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