March 9, 1996 in Nation/World

Iraqis Block U.N. Arms Inspection Team

Associated Press
 

A U.N. arms inspection team was blocked Friday from a site in Baghdad, U.N. sources said, provoking a standoff that continued through the night.

The confrontation followed an announcement by U.N. officials in Baghdad that they found documents and parts of chemical or biological rockets at another weapons site.

The Security Council held an unscheduled meeting Friday afternoon to review the situation. Council diplomats said a statement was expected later in the day.

In California, where President Clinton was traveling, White House press secretary Mike McCurry said the standoff is “a source of very great concern to the United States.”

“This is part of the pattern of continued avoidance by Saddam Hussein of his obligations under the U.N. Security Council resolutions,” he said.

A U.S. official, speaking on condition he not be identified, said Washington believed the council “should demand Iraq comply with this request” to enter the building.

U.N. Special Commission Chairman Rolf Ekeus briefed the council Friday afternoon but refused comment afterward. The council was to resume discussions on the situation in the evening.

Council sources said Iraqis blocked about 43 members of a U.N. inspection team from entering the al-Fao building, operated by the Iraqi Irrigation Ministry, about 11 p.m. local time (1 p.m. PST) and that the standoff continued into the early morning.

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