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Report Says Iraq Still Hiding Information Despite Promise

By John M. Goshko
The Washington Post

While the United Nations waits for a report on the recent inspection of Iraq's formerly off-limits presidential palaces, a team of experts said Thursday that on the eve of those inspections, Iraq still was concealing information about prohibited biological weapons.

A report made public Thursday by experts who took part in a technical meeting in Vienna March 2027 to evaluate Iraq's biological warfare program concludes that Iraq's attempts to show that it eliminated its biological program in 1991 are "incomplete and inadequate."

The experts' unanimous findings bolstered accusations by the U.N. Special Commission (UNSCOM) charged with eliminating Iraq's weapons of mass destruction that Baghdad continues to hide forbidden military technology.

A confrontation over Iraq's refusal to permit UNSCOM inspection of the presidential palaces almost resulted in a U.S. air and missile strikes against Iraq in February.

An armed clash was averted when Secretary General Kofi Annan went to Baghdad and negotiated with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein an agreement for UNSCOM to survey the palaces accompanied by diplomats.

Inspection of the palaces took place in late March and were not covered in Thursday's report. Separate reports on the palace inspections and UNSCOM Chairman Richard Butler's six-month report on Iraqi cooperation with U.N. inspectors are expected to be made public next week.

Thursday's report is the result of an attempt by Baghdad and some members of the U.N. Security Council to dilute UNSCOM's influence by having the evidence it collects evaluated in meetings between a broadly based group of international experts and Iraqi representatives.

The March session was the third of these Technical Evaluation Meetings.