US troops to tail atomic agency officials

United States forces will accompany inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency when they visit a key Iraqi nuclear site, US military officials said.

    Once shadowed by Iraqi forces, the
    IAEA will now be tailed by the US

    The IAEA’s limited mission sets no precedent for any future role there for the agency, the officials said on Thursday.


    Senior officials at the Pentagon told reporters that restrictions were being imposed on the seven IAEA inspectors heading to the Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Centre near Baghdad.


    The US does not consider the IAEA mission to be along the lines of those carried out under the pre-invasion UN Security Council resolutions on disarmament. The inspection does not set any precedent for future IAEA involvement in Iraq in any disarmament effort, the officials said.


    The US could handle disarmament, the officials said, adding that there were "other important tasks for the IAEA to take on around the world..., not least of which include countries like North Korea and Iran."


    Tenders for oil


    Meanwhile, Iraq opened up its oil business to the world, calling for tenders to buy crude in storage at its export terminals.


    Returning to the international market nearly three months after the US-led invasion, Iraq's state oil marketing organisation (SOMO) called for bids for 10 million barrels of

    crude held in storage at export terminals. The oil will be loaded between June 17-30.


    After the open tender is awarded next week, direct contracts with oil companies should follow by the end of this month, Iraq's Chief Oil Marketer Mohammed al-Jibouri said.


    Iraq's US-appointed de facto Oil Minister Thamir Ghadhban said the tender process was only for re-entry into the international oil market and Iraq would eventually return to the normal pre-UN sanctions arrangements.


    Ghadban said he expected Iraq to resume pumping oil to export outlets from northern and southern oilfields by the beginning of July.


    He was confident that Iraq would be able to increase its current production of 700,000 barrels per day to 1.5 million bpd by the second half of June.



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