U.N. inspector says no material on weapons found in palaces

ve found no clues about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction so far in President Saddam Hussein’s palace compounds — hardly a surprise, the head of the team said Tuesday.
Charles Duelfer told The Associated Press that the inspections were not expected to yield much since the Iraqis knew about them in advance. And, he said, the first visit was intended mainly as a preliminary survey.
“We have no intention or expectation of finding prohibited materials,” said Duelfer, the deputy chairman of the U.N. Special Commission overseeing inspections. “Our target is to conduct a baseline mission which sustains our right to the principle of access to all sites.”
Duelfer, an American, said the 71 U.N. weapons experts and the 20 diplomats accompanying them will complete their visits to eight of Saddam’s palaces by the end of the week.
Iraq, which had kept the compounds off-limits to U.N. inspectors on grounds of national sovereignty, opened eight of them under an accord negotiated in February by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
The deal requires that diplomats accompany the weapons teams to safeguard the country’s dignity. Iraq, in turn, is committed to cooperate fully with the inspectors.
Until the inspectors certify that Iraq has eliminated its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons as well as long-range missiles, the U.N. Security Council will not lift the economic sanctions it imposed after Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
The inspectors and diplomats have visited six of the eight designated palace compounds since last Thursday. Surveys of the other two — the Republican Palace compound and Al-Sijood, both in Baghdad — will start Wednesday.
Duelfer said the initial visits were the inspectors’ first opportunity to see the compounds, which contain more than 1,000 buildings in all.
Duelfer said Iraq was cooperating with his teams.
He said Iraqi officials have accompanied the inspectors, including Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, Oil Minister Amer Mohammed Rashid and Saddam’s personal secretary, Abed Hmoud.