UN hails disclosure of weapons data

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The Independent Online

of Reuters

Baghdad - Iraq has handed over important data on its weapons programmes after what appears to be "a new turn" in relations with UN disarmament officials but more information is needed, a United Nations envoy said yesterday.

"Iraq has given very important, significant new information with regard mostly to its biological weapons programmes and also some important information on its missile programme," Rolf Ekeus, head of the UN Special Commission in charge of disarming Iraq under the 1991 Gulf War ceasefire, said before leaving for Bahrain.

Mr Ekeus came to Baghdad on Thursday to collect arms data that Iraq had accused a high-level defector, the son-in-law of President Saddam Hussein, of concealing from UN inspectors. He said it seemed the Iraqi government had now taken "a new turn, appeared to open up, give new disclosures ... At last we have come to a situation where Iraq voluntarily and actively provides the commission with information."

Mr Ekeus said Iraq had addressed most of the outstanding issues in the biological sphere but stressed more information was required as he still did not regard the programme as closed.

Iraq, he added, also gave "important clarifying information" on its nuclear programme which experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency would take it back to Vienna for analysis.