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U.N. Inspectors Visit Iraqi Palace

According to reporters who are following the inspection team, inspectors requested and gained access to the west Baghdad palace quickly and left after 90 minutes without commenting on their search. Saddam’s palaces had been off-limits to U.N. teams in the years before inspections ended in 1998.

Chief Iraqi Liaison Officer Gen. Hossam Mohammed Amin, told reporters “the inspectors were happy” with the palace visit.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Tuesday applauded the inspectors’ decision to enter the palace, calling it “an indication that the inspectors are using their new authority effectively.”

The move follows a more contentious inspection Monday, during which U.N. weapons experts said items tagged by an earlier inspection team in 1998 were missing from an Iraqi factory that once manufactured guidance and control equipment for long-range “stretch Scud” missiles.

Iraqi officials reportedly told inspectors that some of the items were destroyed by allied bombing and others had been transferred to other sites. Inspectors did not say whether the removal of the items would be considered a violation of U.N. restrictions.

Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix told reporters that Iraq has not obstructed his team’s inspection efforts, but said the Iraqi government will have to explain the moving of their equipment.

Meanwhile, officials in Baghdad announced Iraq will submit a U.N.-mandated catalogue of its weapons arsenal on Dec. 7 — a day before the Dec. 8 deadline set in the U.N. resolution passed last month.

Hussam Mohammed Amin, head of the Iraqi National Monitoring Directorate, told reporters his country’s statement would include “new elements,” but said, “these new elements will not, shall we say, necessarily include a declaration of the presence of weapons of mass destruction.”

“We are a country devoid of weapons of mass destruction,” Amin added. “This fact is known to all countries including the United States of America and Britain and all those concerned.”

However, in a speech Monday, President Bush said “the signs are not encouraging” that Saddam’s government will be willing to disarm.

During his remarks, the president warned that the Dec. 8 declaration “must be credible and complete, or the Iraqi dictator will have demonstrated to the world once again that he has chosen not to change his behavior.”

The president also said that the U.N. inspection efforts ” will only work if Iraq fully complies.”

“The inspectors are not in Iraq to play hide-and-seek with Mr. Saddam Hussein,” the president said.

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