Inspectors Vowing to Get Tough

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Chief UN arms inspector Hans Blix flew to Baghdad on Sunday to demand that Iraq stop dragging its feet and volunteer evidence on its weapons programs to avert the threat of war.

Blix flew in from Cyprus with Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the United Nations nuclear agency, in what Blix said was a last-ditch bid to get Iraq's full cooperation before they report back to the UN Security Council on Jan. 27.

The ensuing debate may be crucial to deciding whether the United States begins the war on Iraq that it has threatened while demanding Baghdad come clean on its alleged nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs.

The two inspectors were received at Saddam International Airport by President Saddam Hussein's adviser Amir al-Saadi, and then driven to the al-Rashid Hotel in central Baghdad.

Blix insisted it was in Iraq's power to avert war.

"We don't think war is inevitable. We think the inspection process we are conducting is the peaceful alternative, and it requires very active Iraqi cooperation," he said after arriving in Baghdad.

ElBaradei's spokeswoman Melissa Fleming underlined the inspectors' main message of the last few days:

"What we are looking for is proof that they have destroyed weapons, proof that they haven't produced. We are saying Iraq has to make the effort itself to prove it, not just open doors."

As they spoke, UN inspection teams, who returned to Iraq in November after a four-year break, headed for at least seven sites in search of traces of the programs to develop weapons of mass destruction that Iraq says it has eradicated.

Blix had said before leaving Cyprus that Saturday's discovery of documents at the home of an Iraqi scientist was a worrying indication that Iraq was choosing to hide relevant papers that it should be actively delivering to the inspectors.

"Iraq has an obligation to give a full declaration, so they [documents] should have been given. Why are they still there? Are there more?" he said.

UN inspectors raided the scientist's house Thursday and found 3,000 pages of material apparently related to enrichment of uranium that could be used for nuclear weapons.

The scientist, Faleh Hassan, accused the inspectors of "Mafia-like" behavior and said they had tried to use his wife's illness to persuade him to leave Iraq to be questioned.

Both inspectors had said Saturday they would get tough with Iraq.

Russia called Friday for "careful expert analysis" of 11 warheads that UN weapons inspectors found in bunkers in southern Iraq and said were designed to carry chemical weapons, The Associated Press reported. Russia has called repeatedly for the inspectors to be permitted to complete their job before the United States takes military action.