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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hoping for Compliance, Inspectors Arrive in Iraq

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Backed by U.S. threats of force, United Nations inspectors landed in Iraq on Monday to resume the search for weapons of mass destruction in a mission that could determine whether the Gulf is plunged into a new war.

After the L-100 cargo plane with a black "UN" on its side landed at Baghdad airport, chief UN inspector Hans Blix told reporters that credible inspections were "in the interest of Iraq and the interest of the world."

"We are here to do a job and we will do it professionally and, I hope, competently," he said.

Blix, International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei and their team were met at the airport by an Iraqi delegation led by General Hosam Amin, head of the national monitoring directorate, which was set up as a counterpart to the previous UN inspection team and will play a similar liaison role with Blix's team.

Earlier, before taking off from Cyprus for Baghdad, inspectors' spokesman Ewen Buchanan said equipment that was loaded onto the plane included vacuum cleaners "to clear up four years of dust." Inspectors were last in Iraq in 1998.

U.S. President George W. Bush has warned Iraqi President Saddam Hussein that failure to cooperate with the inspectors, dispatched under a tough new UN Security Council resolution, will bring on a U.S. attack.

Hussein faces a three-week deadline to reveal his weapons of mass destruction or provide convincing evidence he no longer has any.

Also Monday, allied warplanes bombed Iraqi defense systems in the northern no-fly zone over Iraq after being fired upon during routine patrols northeast of Mosul, the U.S. military said.

Iraq considers patrols of the northern no-fly zone -- and of another one in the south of Iraq -- a violation of its sovereignty and frequently shoots at the patrols. The United States has portrayed such Iraqi firing as a breach of a UN Security Council resolution, but has not so far raised recent firings with the council.

Buchanan said Monday he did not think the no-fly zone activity would affect the inspection mission.

Upon arrival in Baghdad, ElBaradei of the atomic energy agency said he hoped for Iraqi cooperation in producing a report to the Security Council that could be "a basic step toward the lifting of sanctions on Iraq."

ElBaradei also said the inspections would be conducted away from the eyes of the international media that had awaited him in Baghdad.

"We hope that when we do the inspection work those inspections will enjoy the necessary privacy," he said. "We will do our job with the maximum objectivity and at the same time the inspections will be thorough."

Blix has said his team was prepared to meet the challenge of ensuring Iraqi compliance. But he said he hoped Iraq would not try to hide anything.