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AFTER THE WAR

Experts Inspecting Mobile Labs, Nuclear Center in Iraq

May 27, 2003|From Associated Press

BAGHDAD — A team of international experts is visiting Iraq to inspect mobile labs that U.S. officials believe were part of a biological weapons program, a top U.S. military commander said Monday.

Meanwhile, U.N. nuclear inspectors were preparing to return to the country to conduct a damage assessment of Iraq's largest nuclear facility.

The Tuwaitha nuclear research center was looted by villagers who took barrels thought to have stored radioactive material. They put drinking water in them, and some villagers have become ill.

Mark Gwozdecky, spokesman for the International Atomic Energy Agency, said a small team would try to determine what happened to materials the agency had monitored at the site since the end of the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Inspectors will "determine what is missing and what it will take to recapture that material and ultimately repackage it and reseal it," he said.

Col. Tim Madere of the Army's V Corps said last week that 20% of the barrels the IAEA had been monitoring at Tuwaitha were missing.

Another team of experts invited by Washington to inspect the labs arrived Saturday, Madere said. The first trailer was seized near Mosul on April 19. The second was found May 9 at Al Kindi, a former missile research facility.

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