U.N. reducing staff in Iraq as precaution against attack

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) — The United Nations chief won the Security Council’s blessing Wednesday to visit the Iraqi capital in a last-ditch diplomatic effort to avert a U.S. attack, and the world body prepared to evacuate its workers from Baghdad in case he failed.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in New York he was leaving with a “reasonable chance of success” and would meet with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
Washington, meanwhile, seemed to inch closer toward airstrikes, sending its foreign policy team to America’s heartland to lobby for military action and saying there was little hope for a diplomatic solution.
The United States and Britain are threatening to attack Iraq to force it to give complete access to U.N. inspectors monitoring the elimination of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. Saddam’s government has blocked inspectors from eight presidential compounds, calling them symbols of Iraqi sovereignty.
The U.N. humanitarian office in Baghdad, which was designed to ease the impact of sanctions imposed after Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait, is reducing staff as a precaution against attack. It will send 29 employees to Jordan today and two to northern Iraq.
The United Nations has expressed fear that an American attack may disrupt humanitarian supplies reaching the country under a program that allows Baghdad to sell $2 billion in oil every six months for food, medicine and other humanitarian goods.
The decision came as a three-person team of U.N. experts mapped the last of eight Iraqi presidential compounds. Mapping the compounds will allow U.N. officials to identify buildings to be examined by the arms inspectors.
Also Wednesday, Iraq gave reporters a rare glimpse inside a weapons factory on a three-stop government tour meant to show it is complying with U.N. rules on weapons manufacturing. The carefully monitored tour did not include visits to the presidential compounds