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IRAQI OFFICIAL HEADING FOR U.N. IN BID TO THWART MILITARY STRIKE

Iraq's deputy prime minister arrived Saturday en route to U.N. headquarters, where he will to try to head off an allied military strike or other harsh measures in a confrontation over Iraq's weapons program.

Tariq Aziz met with King Hussein and Prime Minister Zeid Bin Shaker, the state news agency Petra said, and reportedly asked Jordan to help arrange the easing of sanctions against Iraq.The trip by Aziz, Saddam Hussein's key emissary during the Persian Gulf crisis, follows fresh accusations that Iraq blocked U.N. inspectors assigned to eliminate weapons of mass destruction in line with the Security Council's cease-fire resolutions ending the gulf war a year ago.

Aziz was expected to fly Sunday to New York to meet with U.N. officials.

A U.N. team assigned to destroy equipment used to manufacture long-range missiles left Iraq late last month, saying it was unable to perform its task because of obstacles placed by the Iraqis.

Iraq has said the equipment in question could be converted to civilian use or used to make short-range missiles allowed under the U.N. provisions concerning Iraq's weaponry.

That dispute was only latest in a series of confrontations between the Iraqis and the U.N. inspection teams since the inspections began in May 1991.

But one mission reportedly was proceeding. Gulf radio stations reported Saturday that a 26-member U.N. team would stay a week past a Sunday departure date in Iraq to destroy of 400 rockets equipped with chemical warheads.

The Security Council has warned of "severe consequences" if Iraq refuses to allow implementation of the resolutions, aimed at eliminating Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and its capability to produce them.