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Disarmament letters have 'some positive elements'

New Iraqi disarmament letters have 'some positive elements' - Blix

25 February – United Nations disarmament official Hans Blix said today he has received new letters from Iraq containing some "positive elements" for his search for evidence of banned weapons of mass destruction, but cautioned that the correspondence needs to be explored further.

Answering reporters' questions as he went into a second day of discussions with his top advisers at UN headquarters in New York, Mr. Blix, Executive Chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), said Iraq told him it had found a bomb containing liquid at a biological weapons disposal site.

"There are some elements which are positive and which need to be explored further," Mr. Blix said. "There is one letter in which they tell us they have found an R-400 bomb containing liquid in a site which is known to us at which they did dispose of biological weapons before."

Mr. Blix is meeting with the UNMOVIC College of Commissioners to discuss his upcoming quarterly report on Iraqi disarmament, which he is set to hand in to the Security Council on 1 March. The oral presentation to the Council will take place early next week, although no date has yet been formally set. The discussions included a list of 30 specific unresolved disarmament issues.

Asked if there have been discussions with Baghdad on his demand that it destroy its Al Samoud 2 missiles because they could exceed the 150 kilometre-range limit mandated by Security Council resolutions, Mr. Blix said, "Not between us and Iraq."

In Baghdad, UN spokesman Hiro Ueki said UNMOVIC had received several Iraqi letters on the unilateral destruction of empty warheads, excavations of a dumpsite for destroyed aerial bombs filled with biological agents, and an additional explanation on a biological agent. A biological team visited a dumpsite in the Al Aziziya Range, about 100 kilometres southwest of Baghdad, where Iraq says it unilaterally destroyed aerial bombs filled with biological agents in the summer of 1991. The team also inspected munitions fragments and observed excavation of the pit.

Other UNMOVIC teams fanned out to inspect factories involved in solid propellant missiles, electronic equipment for the army, Al Samoud missile assembly, chemical storage, egg production and other food plants, and an underground refinery. Teams from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) conducted a car-borne radiation survey at Nida and inspected the Al Tahdi electronics research and electrical repair factory.

UNMOVIC STATEMENT

UNMOVIC IAEA Press Statement on Inspection Activities in Iraq

25 February

The destruction of mustard and 155mm artillery shells used for mustard gas at the Al Muthana site will resume tomorrow. The destruction process was temporarily halted due to technical problems. When the work was halted, about one-third of 50 liters of mustard had been destroyed. If everything goes well, the destruction work will be completed in four to five days.

UNMOVIC has received several letters from the Government of Iraq over the last few days. These letters relate to the unilateral destruction of empty warheads, excavations of a dumpsite for the destroyed aerial bombs filled with biological agents, and an additional explanation on a biological agent.

UNMOVIC was invited to participate in the excavations and verification of the aerial bombs filled with biological agents, which Iraq claims had been unilaterally destroyed in the Al Aziziya Range in the summer of 1991. Iraq began excavations of the site on 19 February. An UNMOVIC biological team visited this dumpsite yesterday and today. This site is located approximately 100km southwest of Baghdad. The team inspected munitions fragments and observed excavation of a pit where, Iraq claims, munitions had previously been explosively destroyed.

Four UNMOVIC missile teams performed five inspections. One team inspected the Al Rasheed Company, which is involved in the design and production of solid propellant missiles, and also inspected the Al Fatah Factory, which is involved in the design of solid propellant. A second team inspected the Electronic Base factory, which repairs electronic equipment for the Iraqi army. A third team inspected the Al Kadhimiya Company, which is responsible for the assembly of the Al Samoud 2 missile. And a fourth team inspected the Al Qa Qaa Storage, where missile-related raw material and chemicals are stored.

An UNMOVIC multidisciplinary team inspected the Al Falha Egg Production Company located approximately 100km southeast of Baghdad.

An UNMOVIC chemical team inspected the Baji underground refinery approximately 240km north of Baghdad.

A Mosul-based UNMOVIC multidisciplinary and a biological team from Baghdad carried out a joint inspection of the Departments of Food Technology and Plant Protection of the College of Agriculture and Forestry at Mosul University, approximately 30km south of Mosul. A second multidisciplinary team inspected the Khalil customs post. A third multidisciplinary team inspected the first part of the Mosul Ammunition Storage Facility. The area contained a series of warehouses and storage bunkers. One IAEA team conducted a car-borne radiation survey at Nida, approximately 18km southeast of Baghdad. A second IAEA team inspected the Al Tahdi electronics research and electrical repair factory 12km northeast of Baghdad.

As of today, we have a total of 97 inspectors in Iraq, with 84 working for UNMOVIC and 13 for the IAEA. In addition, we have 118 international support staff, including 52 aircrew, as well as 29 local staff. A grand total of UNMOVIC IAEA personnel are 244.

Deputy Executive Chairman Dimitri Perricos will return to Baghdad on Thursday, 27 February, along with several other UNMOVIC inspectors. 13 IAEA inspectors will also arrive in Baghdad on Thursday. UNMOVIC currently has a Roster of 355 inspectors from 55 countries, including six Arab countries.

Hiro Ueki
Spokesman for UNMOVIC and the IAEA in Baghdad

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