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Annan replaces Blix with expert inspector

Perricos was Blix’s deputy, ran ground search for Iraqi arms

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UNITED NATIONS — U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan named a veteran arms expert Tuesday to replace Hans Blix, the U.N. chief weapons inspector who led a fruitless search for illicit weapons in Iraq.

Dimitri Perricos, who ran the search on the ground in Iraq for Saddam Hussein's chemical and biological weapons and nuclear programs, has been Blix's deputy for three years at the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission.

Blix, a Swedish veteran diplomat, is retiring after more than three years as head of the agency, according to Fred Eckhard, a spokesman for Annan.

Perricos is a technical expert with lots of inspection experience, while Blix, a lawyer, focused on diplomacy with the U.N. Security Council.

The U.N. agency searched more than 200 sites over 3 1/2 months but did not find any weapons of mass destruction and pulled out of Iraq March 18, just before the U.S.-led attack on Iraq.

The U.S.-led coalition's failure in more than two months to find any weapons of mass destruction — the reason cited for the war — has caused international anger. President Bush insists Saddam had a weapons program.

The Greek-born Perricos was an inspector for 28 years with the International Atomic Energy Agency, and moved to UNMOVIC in 2000 shortly after it was created.

UNMOVIC remains a subsidiary body of the Security Council but its future is uncertain. The council has agreed to discuss its mandate at a future date, which has not been set.