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Top Arms Inspector: Far From Conclusion On Iraq Weapons - 2002-12-01


Mohamed ElBaradei -- who heads the team of U-N nuclear inspectors in Iraq -- says no nuclear weapons have been found in the four days since the inspections began. But, in an interview Sunday, Mr. ElBaradei said it's too early to determine the extent of Iraq's involvement with weapons of mass destruction. He said the extent of Iraqi cooperation will determine the outcome of the inspections.

His comments came as U-N weapons inspectors visited an agricultural facility and military complex near Baghdad Sunday.

Since the U-N teams began their work on Wednesday, most inspections have taken place near Baghdad. The scope of the international mission was expanded Sunday when the first U-N helicopters arrive to carry the specialists to more distant inspection sites.

The United States is threatening military action if Iraq does not accept and comply with terms of a U-N Security Council resolution ordering the weapons inspections.

Meanwhile, residents in southern Iraq say at least four people died Sunday during a raid by Western warplanes in Basra, in the southern no-fly zone where Iraqi military operations are restricted. U-S officials say precision-guided weapons were used to hit air-defense facilities near Basra in response to Iraqi anti-aircraft fire directed at coalition aircraft elsewhere in the country.

U-S news reports today say American forces are continuing work on a new command center at an airbase in the Gulf state of Qatar that could serve as headquarters for any military operation against Iraq. The base is preparing for a major American military exercise this month.

The New York Times quotes officials as saying the exercise at Qatar's As-Sayliyah airbase will be the first of its type held outside the United States. Troops will practice procedures that would be used in any war with Iraq.

U-S officials have estimated the cost of a war against Iraq could reach 200-billion dollars -- far more than the 1991 Persian Gulf War. The Washington Post reports some officials are concerned the cost will not be shared by other countries, as was the case in 1991, and will be a burden on American taxpayers.

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