Iraq admits moving equipment
Iraq acknowledged Thursday that it had moved equipment, saying that it feared the hardware would be damaged or destroyed in an air strike. But it denied tampering with surveillance equipment, and said that one camera was destroyed in a short-range missile test.
In a letter to the U.N., Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf said that Iraq was preparing for what it called U.S.-led military aggression and wanted the machinery out of harm's way. Speaking to reporters, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz added, "We expect them to attack us with warplanes and missiles. It's only natural to safeguard our equipment."
The foreign minister described the movement of equipment as temporary and said it would not be used in any prohibited way. "We are going to put the equipment back to its previous positions ... and we will invite U.N. monitoring teams to see it and be sure about it," Al-Sahaf said.
Inspectors turned away again
U.N. inspection teams were turned away again Thursday, the fourth straight day they have been blocked. Three teams -- of missile, chemical weapons, and biological warfare specialists -- were told at three sites that American team members would not be admitted. Iraq has issued an order expelling American inspectors, but has delayed the expulsions during the current talks.
The inspectors turned back after the team chiefs "informed the Iraqi authorities that what they are doing is considered a clear violation of the cease-fire agreements," a U.N. spokesman said.
Under the terms of the 1991 cease-fire that ended the Persian Gulf War, Iraq is prohibited from having several classes of weapons, including chemical, biological and nuclear armaments. It is also required to submit to U.N. inspections to verify that these weapons have been destroyed and are not being developed.
Compliance with the inspections is a requirement for the lifting of economic sanctions that have all but stopped Iraqi oil sales for nearly seven years
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