Inspectors visit first of Saddam's palaces

03 December 2002

In another sign of Iraq's apparent willingness to co-operate with UN weapons inspectors, a team visited one of Saddam Hussein's presidential palaces in Baghdad on the morning of 3 December. Access to the huge palaces, which cover several square miles, had been a bone of contention between Iraq and the UN during the previous inspections regime. Then the Iraqis demanded that officials accompany the inspectors and that they give advance warning: this time the team was allowed in after only a few minute's discussion. The palaces are seen to be high on the list of potential hiding places for prohibited weapons.

On 2 December the so far uneventful inspections hit an obstacle, when a team checking a missile plant at Waziriyah in northern Baghdad discovered that equipment found during the 1990s inspections, which Iraq had been ordered not to move, was missing. The Iraqis denied any wrongdoing, claiming that the material had been either destroyed in bombing raids or moved to other sites.

While the inspection process seems to be proceeding relatively smoothly, the US kept up its complaints about Iraqi anti-aircraft fire directed at US and UK planes patrolling the no-fly zones. The White House sees these incidents as a violation of the latest UN resolution - a viewpoint which has found no support among other UN Security Council members. In a speech on 2 December President Bush said that signs of Saddam Hussein's compliance were so far 'not encouraging', citing the attacks on the aircraft and letters to the UN misrepresenting US intentions.

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