Top U.N. diplomat heads for Baghdad to set up inspections group

MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — An American-led team of U.N. weapons inspectors ended its latest mission to Iraq on Tuesday after searching eight sensitive sites — areas that Iraqi sources said included the Defense Ministry and barracks of the elite Republican Guards.
The six-day mission by American Scott Ritter and his 50-member team had been considered a first test of Iraq’s compliance with a Feb. 23 accord on the U.N. searches for banned weapons.
Also Tuesday, a U.N. envoy arrived in Bahrain to form a diplomatic group to accompany arms inspectors on the true test of Iraqi compliance: searches of Saddam Hussein’s palace compounds.
The first inspections of palaces are expected later this month.
The U.N. envoy, Jayantha Dhanapala, was expected to leave for Iraq from Bahrain early Wednesday. He is to present his plans for forming the team of diplomatic escorts in meetings with Iraqi officials this week.
Dhanapala says he would prefer diplomats based in Baghdad — which would rule out American or British diplomats — but has not put restrictions on the members.