Saddam toys with UN

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The Independent Online
The Chief UN weapons inspector, Richard Butler, said yesterday that Iraq was insisting his inspectors could not enter presidential palaces despite his demands for unrestricted access throughout Iraq.

"Iraq has said that will not occur. That is the question that the Security Council will have to consider, whether it is prepared to accept that or not," Mr Butler said after talks with the Iraqi deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz, yesterday.

Mr Butler said that Iraq was prepared to let inspectors into other sensitive sites "in varying degrees".

Mr Butler's deputy, Charles Duelfer, said earlier that Iraq had given a clearer picture in the talks of its definition of three categories of inspections sites: "normal" sites where the UN has ongoing inspections, "sensitive" sites which touch on its security concerns, and "presidential" sites.

"On the sites that we are permitted to inspect, they have expressed a willingness to be flexible," he said.

Iraqi officials have been adamant in public statements ahead of the talks that "presidential sites" remain off-limits to the UN.

The issue of access has dogged the inspectors for six years. They say Iraq consistently tried to conceal elements of its weapons programmes and has blocked them from sites where those items may have been hidden.

With an increased possibility of germ warfare, the US Defense Secretary, William Cohen, has decided America's 1.5 million men and women in uniform will be inoculated against anthrax.

The biological agent can be fatal even in microscopic amounts.

The inoculations, which involve six shots over 18 months, will cost about $120m (pounds 72m), senior Pentagon officials said yesterday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The concern is for protecting US forces amid a mounting threat of biological or chemical warfare against troops at home or overseas.