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Iraq opens 2 Powell targets to journalists

©Associated Press
February 8, 2003

AL-AMIRIYAH, Iraq -- Iraqi officials Friday took foreign journalists to missile assembly and test sites spotlighted in Colin Powell's presentation to the Security Council to underscore that the installations have been under U.N. scrutiny for months.

In Washington, a senior U.S. official dismissed the press tour. He said Powell had made the point that Iraq hides what it is doing, making it difficult for even experienced monitors to detect illicit activity. Powell alleged the facilities enable Iraq to "project power, to threaten."

The U.N. teams, in their regular updates, have not reported finding major violations of U.N. edicts banning weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and restricting missiles to a 90-mile range.

"We've shown all kinds of cooperation with the inspectors, who have come several times," said Ali Jassim, manager of the al-Rafah missile engine test installation, in scrublands 25 miles southwest of Baghdad. "They found no problem with it."

In his U.N. address, Powell revived a U.S. allegation that the building of a larger al-Rafah test "stand," a concrete and steel structure to hold and test engines, signaled Iraq would test engines for larger missiles violating the U.N. limit.

But the U.N. missile experts have reported inspecting al-Rafah at least five times since inspections resumed Nov. 27, have studied the specifications of the new test stand, regularly monitor tests at the installation and have reported no concerns.

The Iraqis say the new stand will test permitted engines and its configuration relates to safety needs.

At the second site, a missile assembly installation, the director said of Powell's statement about his facility, "It's only lies."

In Wednesday's presentation, seen by television audiences worldwide, Powell displayed a satellite photo labeled "10 Nov 2002" showing a large truck and missile and warhead canisters outside a workshop building at the al-Musayyib site, 35 miles south of Baghdad.

Powell suggested this was a sign of Iraqi deception, two weeks before U.N. inspections resumed in Iraq.

"Why would Iraq suddenly move equipment of this nature before inspections?" he asked.

An incredulous site director, Karim Jabar Youssef, said such shipments of parts and finished missiles were an everyday occurrence at the Rasheed Co. site.

On Friday, a similar truck sat near the photographed location, along with missiles, canisters and missile components, inside and outside the workshop, waiting for transfer.

"On any day there would be constant activity, so any day Colin Powell can claim there is intense activity here," Youssef said.

Besides, he noted, U.N. inspectors have visited al-Musayyib 10 times since November. The short-range Fatah missiles there, legal under U.N. resolutions, bore U.N. inventory stickers. Inspectors have not reported violations at the site.

Al-Rafah and the Rasheed site were two of numerous Iraqi installations said by Powell to pose threats, without his noting U.N. teams have them under close watch.

Another intelligence report also was under international criticism Friday.

London's Channel 4 News said a British government report purporting to show how Iraq is deceiving U.N. weapons inspectors contained large chunks lifted, without attribution, from old public sources, including an article from Jane's Intelligence Review and one by an American university lecturer. The British dossier was cited by Powell.

The British government said Friday it erred in not acknowledging that sections of the document were based on work by Monterey, Calif.-based researcher Ibrahim al-Marashi, Prime Minister Tony Blair's official spokesman said.

Three Iraqi scientists give private interviews

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Three more Iraqi scientists gave private interviews to U.N. weapons inspectors Friday.

Two, a senior scientist and a missile expert, were interviewed by the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission; the other, a chemical engineer, by the nuclear watchdog agency, the commission said.

The interview with the senior scientist lasted about four hours while the sessions with the missile expert and the chemical engineer lasted about 21/2 hours, the commission said.

Friday's sessions came a day after an Iraqi scientist submitted to a private interview with weapons monitors for the first time, meeting a key U.N. demand.

The additional interviews were announced on the eve of the arrival of top U.N. inspectors Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, who have insisted Iraq must provide much more cooperation in order to stave off a U.S.-led attack.

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