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Removal Of Equipment, Buildings From Iraq Concerns


UN Nuclear Watchdog Concerned By Removal Of Equipment, Buildings From Iraq

The head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency says it is concerned that equipment - even entire buildings - and contaminated scrap have been removed from sites in Iraq, in some cases even out of the country.

In a letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, which was then transmitted to the Security Council, Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says other information available to the IAEA, confirmed through visits to other countries, indicates that large quantities of scrap, some of it contaminated, have been transferred out of Iraq from sites monitored by the Agency.

"It is not clear whether the removal of those items has been the result of looting activities in the aftermath of the recent war in Iraq, or as part of systematic efforts to rehabilitate some of the locations," Mr. ElBaradei writes.

He says these activities may have a significant impact on the Agency's "continuity of knowledge" of Iraq's remaining nuclear-related capabilities and raise concern about the proliferation risk associated with dual-use material and equipment disappearing to unknown destinations.

The United States Government has been informed of these observations, Mr. ElBaradei adds, and clarifications are expected.

Under previous Security Council resolutions, the IAEA is required to submit progress reports every six months on its verification activities in Iraq. However, the Agency pulled out of the country on the eve of the war last year, and since then has been concentrating on analyzing information collected since it began inspections in 1991.

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