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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Iraq Invites UN to Inspect Its Palaces

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Iraq invited UN experts Wednesday to inspect President Saddam Hussein's palaces to see whether they contain banned weapons or materials, the official Iraqi news agency INA said.

In Washington, a Pentagon spokesman gave the Iraqi move a cautious welcome.

"The proof is in his [Saddam's] actions. That would be positive, if it's true," spokesman Bryan Whitman said.

The agency report quoted Iraqi leaders as saying: "We have decided to extend an invitation to two representatives from all the countries represented in the UN Special Commission and five others from each of the permanent members of the Security Council, including experts and ambassadors and host them in these palaces and sites."

The visits could last "a week or more," the agency added. The UN Special Commission is charged with scrapping Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

Access to presidential palaces and other sensitive sites has been the main bone of contention between Iraq and the United Nations since UN arms inspectors returned to the country last week under an agreement that Baghdad would drop its ban on Americans as members of the UN teams.

The United States said Wednesday it was confident that its Arab allies in the gulf would support "serious" military action against Iraq if Washington decided it was needed.

But the president of the United Arab Emirates said it was time to forgive Saddam, and France said it wanted the Security Council to tell Baghdad when it could expect an end to seven years of Gulf War sanctions.

In Iraq, 13 groups of UN arms program monitors headed by road Wednesday for inspection sites.