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LIFE IS TOUGH BUT IMPROVING FOR DUO BEING HELD IN IRAQ, DIPLOMAT SAYS

A Polish diplomat Tuesday visited the two Americans imprisoned in Iraq and said life is tough but improving for the pair in the maximum-security facility on the edge of Baghdad.

"They are well. They're better than before. However, their conditions are difficult," Ryszard Krystosik told reporters.The prisoners - David Daliberti, 41, of Jacksonville, Fla., and William Barloon, 39, of New Hampton, Iowa - were sentenced March 25 to eight-year terms for illegally crossing into Iraq.

The American pair strayed into Iraq on March 13 while trying to visit friends at a United Nations post near the border with Kuwait. The men worked for U.S. defense contractors in Kuwait.

Krystosik, who looks after U.S. interests here in the absence of diplomatic relations between Washington and Baghdad, met Monday with Khaled Jarjees, the pair's Iraqi lawyer, before going Tuesday to the Abu Ghraib prison.

Neither he nor the attorney would comment on an appeal of the conviction, which is scheduled to be filed this week. Iraq has banned journalists from meeting or calling Jarjees.

Jarjees said earlier evidence presented by Iraq has shown the two men were guilty of entering Iraq illegally, but he will argue that they did so unwittingly and unintentionally.

Iraqi officials have suggested that the Americans entered with ulterior motives tied to U.S. efforts to prolong the U.N. oil and trade embargo imposed after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

The two Americans were visited Tuesday by CNN correspondent Brent Sadler, who said the men appear to be "more determined," but that Daliberti is increasingly concerned about heart and eye problems. Daliberti was visited by two heart doctors and two eye doctors Tuesday, he said.

According to Sadler, the men said they are being held in a small cell that is part of a cellblock with about 200 prisoners, including convicted murderers. There are just three holes in the floor for toilet facilities, Sadler said the men told him.

The mens' wives, Kathy Daliberti in Jacksonville and Linda Barloon in Kuwait City, expressed gratitude Tuesday to hear anything about their husbands but said the continued incarceration seemed unfair.

Sadler told the women their husbands had lost weight and they were wearing the same jeans and jackets as when detained but that they appeared cleaner and to be wearing laundered clothing.

The United States has repeatedly appealed for the release of Daliberti and Barloon, saying they strayed into Iraqi territory from Kuwait accidentally.

U.N. officials admit U.N. personnel in the demilitarized zone along Iraq's southern frontier erred by waving the men through onto Iraqi soil.

The Information Ministry has banned Baghdad-based reporters and other personnel working for Western news media from attending court proceedings where the appeal is to be heard.

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ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Biological weapons

The U.N. Security Council was told Monday that there was a "high risk" that Iraq purchased materials for manufacturing biological weapons and did not disclose those materials to U.N. weapons inspectors. Council members have suspected Iraq's capabilities to produce biological weapons, but the report submitted by Rolf Ekeus, head of U.N. inspectors in Iraq, will give the 15-nation council another reason to maintain economic sanctions against that country. "The only conclusion that can be drawn is that there is a high risk that they (materials) have been purchased and used for a proscribed purpose - acquisition of biological warfare agents," Ekeus said in a periodic six-month report to the council. Ekeus said the Baghdad government had failed to account for the dozens of tons of chemical agents it bought that they said were for legitimate use. He informed the council of the missing materials in mid-January when the council met to review 4-year-old sanctions against Iraq. The council decided to maintain the sanctions in January and again in mid-March. The council is obligated to review the sanctions every two months and lift them when Iraq complies with U.N. conditions.