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U.N. Team Inspects Former Iraqi Weapons Facility

The team there checked on new construction and other changes since their last visit in 1998, the AP quoted a U.N. nuclear control agency spokeswoman as saying.

The U.N. team spent five hours inspecting the al-Muthanna State Establishment, a factory some 40 miles northwest of Baghdad that allegedly once produced chemical agents like mustard gas, tabrun, sarin and the VX nerve agent, the Associated Press reports. U.N. inspectors demolished most of the factory in the late 1990s after Iraqis admitted the site produced some 4,000 tons of chemical munitions a year.

Inspectors also visited the Al-Twaitha nuclear complex, headed by Iraq’s nuclear power authority. The team there checked on new construction and other changes since their last visit in 1998, the AP quoted a U.N. nuclear control agency spokeswoman as saying.

Inspectors on Tuesday searched one of Iraq’s presidential palaces — a move that was applauded by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

But Gen. Hossam Mohammed Amin, the chief Iraqi liaison officer, criticized the palace inspection Wednesday, saying U.N. inspectors were acting under U.S. and Israeli pressure to create conflict with Iraq.

“We consider the entry of the presidential sites as unjustified and really unnecessary,” Amin told reporters. However, he said Iraq would not attempt to restrict inspectors’ access to such sites.

Meanwhile, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Wednesday the U.S. wants the U.N. to do all it can to ensure weapons inspectors can mount multiple, simultaneous weapons inspections in Iraq to gauge whether Saddam Hussein is complying with disarmament requirements, officials said today.

“Not just the United States, but the international community wants to make sure that they have a sufficient number [of inspectors], that they are able to do multiple inspections at the same time, that they can have a vigorous inspection regime,” Fleischer told reporters.

Fleischer’s comments follow a speech Tuesday in which President Bush said “the signs are not encouraging” that Baghdad will comply with U.N. disarmament requirements.

Also Wednesday, Amin reiterated that Iraq planned to deliver a declaration of its weapons programs by a U.N.-mandated Sunday deadline, saying the document will not reveal a hidden biological, chemical or nuclear weapons stockpile.

“It will be a huge declaration which comprises, of course, new elements,” Amin told reporters. “These new elements are with regards to new sites and new activities which have been conducted during the absence of the inspectors.”

Iraq also responded to a British report released Monday that accused Saddam Hussein’s government of widespread human rights abuses. A foreign ministry statement said the report was another of British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s “statements that are full of falsifications, accusations, fabrications and lies against Iraq, its people and leadership.”

The British report alleged Saddam has used torture and terror as an official policy to crush dissent and maintain his grip on power. The dossier includes reports of government agents using rape, burning, electric shock, mutilation with acid, beatings and other brutal methods of torture to terrorize and extract information from anyone suspected of having ties to opposition.

The Iraqi statement, excerpted by the AP, said Iraqis are suffering from U.S.- and British-backed sanctions, not from internal human rights abuses.

“Blair this time spoke about human rights matters in Iraq and of course no one expected Blair to speak about what the criminal and immoral siege imposed on the Iraqi people for more than 12 years has done,” the statement said.

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