U.N. inspectors arrived Friday to check nuclear sites after Baghdad agreed to long-term monitoring of its weapons programs to avoid another showdown with the West.
The 15-member inspection team will also prepare for an airlift of about 86 pounds of nuclear fuel to Russia in an effort to prevent a revival of Baghdad's nuclear weapons program, team leader Maurizio Zifferero said.Zifferero, deputy director of the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency, said the airlift will start in September and last until March.
Such cargo had been transported by ship in the past. But U.N. officials overseeing the destruction of Iraq's non-conventional weapons said a special plane was being adapted to guard against radiation leakage even in the event of a crash.
Another team of U.N. inspectors planned to leave New York for Baghdad today with surveillance cameras for two missile-testing sites, Yawm al-Azim and Al-Rafah, 45 miles south of Baghdad. Baghdad's initial refusal to permit the cameras into the sites provoked the threat of Western military action.
Foreign Minister Mohammed Said al-Sahaf said Thursday he hoped Iraq's approval of the monitoring plan would help ease crippling economic sanctions imposed after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
But Rolf Ekeus, head of the U.N. Special Commission charged with eliminating Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, said he could not recommend that sanctions be eased.
"The problem in Iraq is that you don't really trust them," he told CBS News today. "You are suspicious and you have reason to be suspicious."
Ekeus added that he was not satisfied that Iraq had been stripped of its capacity to produce long-range missiles, despite its agreement to have the two disputed test sites monitored.
Under a compromise reached over the weekend, the cameras won't be used until after high-level U.N. discussions beginning in August, Ekeus told the Security Council on Thursday.
Until then, Iraq will notify the United Nations in advance of all test firings so that inspectors could be present, he said during the closed session briefing in New York.