Iraq Nuclear Inspections Easier

The Associated Press
December 17, 1998


VIENNA, Austria (AP) -- Not all U.N. weapons inspectors are down on Iraq. The agency investigating Iraq's nuclear program says it has run into far fewer problems than Richard Butler's inspection teams.

Butler's U.N. Special Commission, known as UNSCOM, rejects Baghdad's claims it has destroyed all of its weapons of mass destruction, and he accuses Iraq of obstructing teams trying to verify their elimination. UNSCOM inspects and monitors chemical and biological weapons programs as well as those involving long-range missiles.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, on the other hand, has said it believes Iraq no longer has much to hide in the area of nuclear weapons.

The IAEA, based in Vienna, has given Iraq fairly good marks, saying it has provided ``the necessary level of cooperation'' to enable the nuclear inspectors to complete their work ``efficiently and effectively.''

But IAEA officials say their job has been easier than that of UNSCOM, and therefore less confrontational.

``They've had a harder time, so they had to pursue their work much more toughly and with larger teams than we did,'' IAEA spokesman David Kyd told The Associated Press.

Iraq's nuclear facilities were heavily damaged during the 1991 Persian Gulf War and, Kyd noted, it is harder to hide a clandestine nuclear program. ``Biological and chemical weapons can be squirreled away anywhere in pharmaceutical or plants or elsewhere,'' he said.

The IAEA says it has dismantled much of what survived the Gulf War. However, the Washington-based Nuclear Control Institute suggests nuclear inspectors were relatively unimpeded because they were less demanding.

If UNSCOM, rather than IAEA, was responsible for nuclear inspections, ``there would not be the dangerously mistaken impression that exists today that Iraq's nuclear weapons threat is dead,'' said Paul Levanthal, president of the Nuclear Control Institute.

AP-NY-12-17-98 1450 EST

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