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Weapons Inspectors Fan Out Across Iraq - 2002-12-10


U-N weapons inspectors in Iraq have expanded their search for banned weapons of mass destruction, visiting 10 different sites around the country on Tuesday.

The inspectors ventured far outside Baghdad for the first time since inspections resumed two weeks ago, going to a closed uranium mining site on Iraq's border with Syria.

Inspectors also paid their third visit in a week to the al-Tuwaitha complex south of Baghdad, which before the Gulf War was Iraq's center of nuclear research.

The inspection teams have been able to expand the range of their searches as more inspectors fly in from Cyprus. Another 25 inspectors arrived in the Iraqi capital Tuesday. The United Nations hopes to have about 100 inspectors in the country by the end of December.

Meanwhile, Iraq is blasting Washington's move to control the distribution of Iraq's weapons declaration to the U-N Security Council. Iraq's Foreign Ministry says the United States seeks to "manipulate" the document to justify a U-S attack against the Iraqi government.

The Foreign Ministry says the U-S move also shows disrespect for the U-N charter and the rights of the Council's 10 non-permanent member countries. The White House calls the Iraqi claims "ludicrous."

Sunday, U-S officials took a complete copy of the report and reproduced it for the four other permanent members of the Council (Britain, France, Russia, and China). The non-permanent members will receive an edited version, with sensitive material about banned weapons removed. Both Norway and Syria have criticized the arrangement.

U-S officials have promised a thorough review of the 12-thousand page report from Iraq, detailing its nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs.

Earlier, the Vienna-based U-N nuclear agency said that at first glance, the Iraqi report appears consistent with its claim to have no nuclear weapons or the means to produce them. But the agency says U-N inspectors in Iraq will determine that fact.

The United States and Britain say they have proof that Iraq is lying about its weapons program, and President Bush has threatened military action if Iraq does not voluntarily disarm.

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