UN Alleges Iraq Impeded Inspections

UNITED NATIONS -- Iraqi officials are accused of interfering with two UN weapons inspections over the weekend in an apparent repeat of incidents that drew threats from the UN Security Council last June.

In one case, an Iraqi manhandled a photographer aboard a UN surveillance helicopter in an incident that UN sources said late on Tuesday endangered the lives of those on board.

And in both incidents the UN inspectors, who were allowed to enter the two sites but had to wait for permission, saw a variety of vehicles apparently carting off documents they were seeking, according to diplomats familiar with reports on the dispute.

The latest events were related to Tariq Aziz, Iraq's deputy prime minister, in a letter from Richard Butler, the new head of the UN Special Commission in charge of ridding Iraq of chemical, biological and ballistic arms.

The incidents -- one Saturday and another Monday -- were similar to those last June when the Security Council threatened further measures against Iraq if it barred inspectors from sensitive sites in their quest for weapons of mass destruction and related materials.

Baghdad argued then that it could not allow probes in sites dealing with national security after the United Nations complained that its inspections were blocked and that Iraq interfered with a helicopter flight in midair.

Unless the inspectors are satisfied, stringent sanctions against Iraq, particularly oil exports, cannot be lifted. The embargoes were imposed in 1990.