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Locked doors delay disease center query

©Associated Press
December 14, 2002

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- U.N. teams were held up for two hours Friday at a newly declared site -- an infectious diseases center -- forcing inspectors to use their hotline to higher Iraqi authorities for the first time since returning to the country last month.

The snag occurred as U.S. officials in Washington said Iraq's 12,000-page weapons declaration does not account for a number of missing chemical and biological weapons. The officials said it fails to explain attempted purchases of uranium and other items U.S. intelligence believes are related to Saddam Hussein's nuclear program.

At the United Nations, Security Council diplomats concurred that the voluminous report contained little that was new, raising questions about whether Iraq was committed to disarmament.

During inspections in Baghdad on Friday, a U.N. team got access to the Communicable Disease Control Center but found several rooms locked and no one with keys. The Iraqis said the rooms were locked because Friday, the Muslim day of prayer, was a day off for doctors and other workers and no one else had keys.

Gen. Hossam Mohammed Amin, head of the National Monitoring Directorate, arrived two hours later, after being summoned by the hotline call. He and the inspectors agreed the rooms would be sealed for inspection later, perhaps today.

"I don't see this as being a significant problem," said Ewen Buchanan, spokesman for the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission in New York. "We have sealed those rooms that the Iraqi officials could not provide keys for and we'll go back to check on them."

Inspectors visited three other sites. Details were not released.

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