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U.N. DOUBTS IRAQ CLAIM OF ARMS DESTRUCTION

Iraqi forces escalate attacks against Kurds; see A5.MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) - Iraq claims to have destroyed significant numbers of missiles, chemical bombs and other arms, but United Nations inspectors on Saturday said they were skeptical of the word of a government that has repeatedly defied the world body.

U.N. inspectors arrived in Baghdad Saturday on a nine-day mission to verify Iraq's new weapons disclosures. The U.N. cease-fire resolutions on the gulf war call on Iraq to surrender all of its weapons of mass destruction.Derek Boothby, British leader of the 35-member team, met for four hours Saturday with Iraqi officials at the Industry Ministry.

Afterward, Boothby said by telephone from Baghdad he was seeking "as much new information concerning Iraq's ballistic missiles and chemical weapon capabilities as they're able to provide, and then endeavor to assess that information for its completeness and verify it for its accuracy."

Also Saturday, an Iraqi team was at the International Atomic Energy Commission in Vienna to discuss demolition of installations at Al Atheer nuclear plant outside Baghdad. The plant had escaped damage in allied attacks during the gulf war last year.

Iraq on Friday admitted having more weapons than it previously disclosed, but claimed it had destroyed most of them.

It also agreed to destroy missile-production equipment, dropping earlier demands for converting these to civilian use.

But diplomats cautioned that the new information had to be verified, a comprehensive disclosure still was needed, equipment had to be destroyed and Iraq still must accept long-term U.N. monitoring.In the past, Iraq has hindered U.N. weapons inspections teams. In one incident, Iraqi soldiers fired shots over the heads of inspectors to prevent them from taking photographs at a nuclear site. Another team was prevented from taking documents related to Iraq's nuclear program, leading to a 4-day standoff in a parking lot.

Other U.N. experts were roughed up by Iraqi demonstrators outside their Baghdad hotel.

The U.N. Security Council has warned of "serious consequences" if Iraq continued to flout the cease-fire terms. President Bush and British Prime Minister John Major have threatened military strikes against weapons installations.