Surprise Iraq visits by UN weapons inspectors

BAGHDAD (Reuter) - Two teams of United Nations weapons inspectors rushed to installations somewhere in Iraq yesterday to check what they called very important information on Iraq's long-range missile programme. An Iraqi official said they found nothing. Nikita Smidovitch, whose team of 20 inspectors flew in from Bahrain at dawn, said of the visit: 'It was very important. We were checking very important information we possess. This time we decided to send an inspection team to check very specific items in very specific facilities.'

Mr Smidovitch said the locations might contain items prohibited by UN Security Council Resolution 687, which requires Iraq to dismantle its biological, chemical, nuclear and ballistic missile programmes. But he declined to say whether the inspectors - two teams acting together for the first time in Iraq - had found any of the 100 Scud missiles the United Nations believes Iraq is hiding. The other team of 13, led by Patrice Palanque, of France, had extended its stay in Iraq by at least one day, apparently for the surprise inspection yesterday. Both teams are likely to leave Iraq today.

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