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Iraq Disputes U.N. Decision, Inspections Intensify

The U.S. garnered the early copy after successfully lobbying the four other permanent Security Council members to support its insistence to see the document immediately. The deal overrode a unanimous decision by the 15 Security Council nations to delay receiving the report until United Nations experts screened it for information that could be used to create a nuclear weapon. Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice reportedly decided late Friday that they did not want to wait to receive the report.

The Iraqi Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that the U.S. move “aims at manipulating United Nations documents to find covers for aggression against Iraq, especially after it has been revealed to the world the facts regarding United States’ claims regarding the possession of weapons of mass destruction.”

The release went on to condemn the action as “an unprecedented blackmail operation in the history of the United Nations.”

The United States has distributed copies of the dossier to the other four permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, prompting complaints from several of the 10 non-permanent council members, including Syria and Norway. The countries accuse the U.N. of showing preference in its treatment of the U.S., Britain, China, Russia and France.

According to Colombian Ambassador to the U.N. Alfonso Valdivieso, the Security Council’s president for December, the decision to release the report to the United States was made after discussion with all the other council members. The BBC quoted Valdivieso as saying the decision was based on the idea that the five major nuclear powers — also the five permanent Security Council members — are the only nations equipped to assess potential risks present in the report.

U.S. officials started their analysis of the 12,000-page dossier on Monday. According to Iraq, the report includes a full account of current and former biological, chemical or nuclear weapons.

Also today, United Nations weapons inspectors broadened their search for illicit materials in Iraq, embarking on five separate missions. A team of nuclear monitors re-evaluated a mining center near the Syrian border, which inspectors visited in 1991. Inspectors during that inaugural trip thought Iraq had exploited phosphate deposits in the area for their uranium content. Iraq says its uranium plant at the facility has been destroyed, Reuters reports.

Another inspection team reportedly paid a fourth recent visit to the Tuweitha nuclear site, south of Baghdad. A third visited the Furat Chemical Industries General Company, which is linked to Iraq’s Ministry of Industry and Minerals. A fourth team inspected a research center, and a fifth was reported to have visited an animal vaccine center west of Baghdad. Reports from Baghdad suggest this is the Amariyah Serum and Vaccine Institute, a center of biological weapons-related research in the 1980s.

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