Hollywood's Penn Preaches Peace in Iraq
Actor Sean Penn Visits Iraq to Campaign for Peace as U.N. Inspectors Hunt for Weapons
The Associated Press
BAGHDAD, Iraq Dec. 15 —
U.N. inspectors hunted for weapons of mass destruction at missile plants and nuclear complexes Sunday, while an unusual visitor Hollywood star Sean Penn spoke out in Baghdad against a U.S. attack and in support of the Iraqi people caught up in an international crisis.
In Berlin, meanwhile, the German defense ministry said the United Nations had asked it to supply the inspection operation with unmanned spy aircraft to help in the search for banned Iraqi weapons or the facilities to make them.
A decision on whether to supply the LUNA drones and the technicians needed to maintain them likely will be made this week, said a ministry spokesman on customary condition of anonymity. German-U.S. relations were strained over Berlin's opposition to attacking Saddam Hussein, but Berlin has pledged full support for the inspection program.
Penn issued his comments at the end of a three-day visit to Iraq which was organized by the Institute for Public Accuracy, a research organization based in San Francisco, California.
"Simply put, if there is a war or continued sanctions against Iraq, the blood of Americans and Iraqis alike will be on our (American) hands," Penn said at a news conference in the Iraqi capital Sunday.
U.N. inspectors hunting for banned weapons of mass destruction searched a missile plant south of Baghdad that the United States said had aroused suspicion. It was one of ten sites the newly bolstered inspection team visited Sunday, according to Iraqi government officials and a statement by U.N. inspectors' headquarters in Baghdad.
With the arrival of 15 inspectors Sunday and the routine departure of others in recent days, the total of U.N. sleuths now stands at 105, said Hiro Ueki, a spokesman for the U.N. program in Baghdad. On Saturday, the teams visited a dozen sites, a number Ueki said was the largest single-day site visitation since the inspectors returned to Iraq on Nov. 27 after a four-year hiatus.
The sites visited Sunday included al-Mutasim, a government missile plant occupying the grounds of a former nuclear facility 46 miles south of Baghdad, the inspectors said. As usual, they offered no details about what they sought or found.
Al-Mutasim was cited in a CIA intelligence report released in October that detailed what U.S. officials said was evidence Iraq was producing chemical and biological weapons and the means to deliver them. The report also cited the facility for as a site where Iraq might be trying to build nuclear weapons.
Iraqi officials said the inspectors also revisited al-Qa'qaa, a large nuclear complex just south of Baghdad, Sunday that had been searched Saturday and last week as well. The site had been under U.N. scrutiny in the 1990s and was involved in the final design of Iraq's nuclear weapons ambitions before it was destroyed by U.N. teams after the 1991 Gulf War.
The United Nations offered no details on Sunday's inspection at al-Qa'qaa. During their Saturday visit, inspectors said the question the director of the facility about changes made since teams were last in Iraq four years ago. Last week the teams began taking an inventory of nuclear materials still at the site.
Also Sunday, the inspectors returned to a missile complex north of Baghdad for the second time in two days. The complex, the government-owned al-Nasr Company, 30 miles north of Baghdad, also houses sophisticated machine tools that can, for example, help manufacture gas centrifuges. Such centrifuges are used to enrich uranium to bomb-grade level a method that was favored by the Iraqis in their nuclear weapons program of the late 1980s.
Haithem Shihab, manager of a factory in al-Nasr, said the inspectors compared the facility to site plans and checked machinery.
"Today's inspection went smoothly, and we provided the inspectors with all the information they asked for. They entered all the places they wanted. We answered all questions. They made sure that there are no prohibited activities in this factory," Shihab said Sunday.
Shihab said his factory produced parts for missiles with a range no greater than 43 miles. Under U.N. resolutions, Iraq is limited to missiles with a range of no greater than 90 miles.
Also Sunday, International Atomic Energy Agency experts on the U.N. team inspected Um-Al Maarek Mother of Battles a government facility 12 miles south of Baghdad. Nuclear experts visited the site the first time Nov. 30. It is run by the government's Military Industrialization Commission in charge of weapons development.
In the first round of inspections in the 1990s, after Iraq's defeat in the Gulf War, the United Nations destroyed tons of Iraqi chemical and biological weapons and dismantled Iraq's nuclear weapons program but inspectors do not believe they got all Iraq's banned arsenal.
The inspectors are back under a tough U.N. resolution passed last month that threatens serious consequences if Iraq fails to prove it has surrendered all its banned weapons. The United States already has expressed skepticism at the voluminous Iraqi weapons declaration filed Dec. 8.