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U.N. Pulls 15 Inspectors Out of Iraq

November 08, 1998|From Associated Press

BAGHDAD — The United Nations pulled 15 weapons inspectors out of Iraq on Saturday, the first in a series of planned staff pullbacks in the face of the Baghdad regime's decision to halt cooperation with the inspectors.

The departure of the U.N. personnel came amid increased fear of a military strike by the United States and Britain in response to Iraq's blocking the inspectors from working.

The U.N. experts--including a team of missile inspectors--took a U.N. flight to nearby Bahrain on Saturday. They said nothing to the media on their arrival in the capital, Manama.

On Friday, U.S. Defense Secretary William S. Cohen wrapped up a tour of Arab nations and Turkey, saying he was satisfied that the United States would have adequate support for an attack from its Arab allies.

"Force is not the preferred option. It's not the best option, but it has to be an option because in many ways that is the only thing [Iraqi President] Saddam [Hussein] recognizes," British Defense Secretary George Robertson said in London.

A spokeswoman for the U.N. Special Commission in Baghdad, Caroline Cross, said that more staffers will leave Iraq on Monday and Wednesday. UNSCOM is responsible for overseeing the elimination of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

UNSCOM in New York said Friday that it would withdraw 26 staffers in all--or about 20% of its roughly 130-member permanent staff in Iraq--because the experts were sitting idle.

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