U.N. weapons inspectors - the first to arrive in Baghdad since the West banned Iraqi military aircraft from southern Iraqi skies - set to work Tuesday, U.N. officials said.
"We assume that because we have not heard of any problems that there aren't any," Doug Englund, Bahrain-based regional chief for the U.N. Special Commission, said after speaking with team members in Iraq.The commission is charged with eliminating Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction under the cease-fire agreement that ended the Persian Gulf war.
The 21-member nuclear weapons team, led by Italian Maurizio Zifferero, arrived in Baghdad on Monday and is to stay until Sept. 7.
It is the first group to start new work since the United States, Britain and France threatened to shoot down Iraqi aircraft flying over southern Iraq, were Iraqi forces had been on the offensive against Shiite Muslim rebels.
A 15-person U.N. chemical weapons team has been in Iraq, and 14 more chemical experts flew into Baghdad with the nuclear team.
Englund said the chemical team was preparing to destroy 40,000 chemical weapons at the Muthana facility outside the Iraqi capital. But he would not name the site the nuclear team planned to visit Tuesday.
More than 40 U.N. teams have visited Iraq since the cease-fire. In July, Saddam denied weapons inspectors access to the Agriculture Ministry in what turned into a 21-day standoff. Iraq finally backed down, but only after the West threatened to use military force.
Zifferero has said he did not expect the inspections would be adversely affected by the flight ban because the two issues are unrelated.
But Iraqi officials have suggested they might retaliate by ending cooperation on the weapons inspections or by hindering U.N. guards and relief workers from operating in northern Iraq.