Investigate Iraq WMD looting: Russia

The call follows reports of the disappearance of high-tech equipment that could be used to make nuclear weapons.

Inspectors from the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission and the International Atomic Energy Agency must be allowed to go back to Iraq, the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.

“We believe that these organisations, which possess all the necessary expertise…, must as soon as possible receive unlimited access to Iraq’s nuclear sites to resume their interrupted task,” Russian foreign ministry spokesman, Alexander Yakovenko, said.

“It is essential that Iraq’s transitional government and the United States adopt urgent measures to establish control over sensitive material and equipment, and allow international organizations specially authorized to do that to accomplish their task without any obstacles,” Mr Yakovenko added.

International Atomic Energy Agency director, General Mohamed ElBaradei, has warned the United Nations that equipment and materials that could be used to make nuclear weapons, in some cases entire buildings housing sophisticated technology, are disappearing from Iraq.

In a letter to the Security Council, Mr ElBaradei said he was concerned about the “widespread and apparently systematic dismantlement that has taken place at sites previously relevant to Iraq’s nuclear program” under ousted dictator Saddam Hussein.

Atomic Agency inspectors have made two brief trips to Iraq since the US-led war ended in April 2003 to check inventories at the Tuwaitha nuclear complex south of Baghdad. However these trips were in response to looting and not part of weapons inspections under the agency’s UN mandate.

The international agency is ready to send inspectors back to Iraq, a spokesman said.

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