UN experts at Iraq's nuclear site

UN nuclear experts inspected a storage facility at Iraq’s main nuclear site on Sunday following fears that some of its looted material might be posing a health risk to thousands of Iraqis.

    Inspectors have a limited

    International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors surveyed al-Tuwaitha nuclear site to assess whether refined uranium ore had been looted during the chaos that prevailed following the fall of the Iraqi regime. 


    The seven inspectors, who were wearing white protective suits, worked under tight military US escort.


    US soldiers confiscated a video belonging to a Reuters cameraman. They said media coverage was not permitted near the site, about 20 kilometres south of Baghdad. 


    The IAEA team arrived in Iraq on Friday, for a two-week mission, limited by the US-led occupying powers, to count missing containers of radioactive material and repack spilled substances.


    Looters emptied some of the barrels and sold them to local people for $2 each. US forces said they had paid $3 a barrel to retrieve the stolen items and five radiological devices.


    People who had used the barrels to wash clothes or store food said their children were falling ill.


    But IAEA and US military officials say they believe the health risk is low.


    The Pentagon imposed strict guidelines on the Vienna-based agency before it allowed the inspectors to return to Iraq.


    Inspectors will not be allowed to check for environmental or health impacts resulting from the looting of nuclear items that followed US occupation of Iraq.


    Washington also does not want UN experts to resume their mission as arms inspectors there.


    Before the US-led war on Iraq, the IAEA and the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) were responsible for finding Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and destroying them.


    Both agencies could not produce evidence that Iraq had revived its nuclear weapons programme, as charged by the United States and Britain.


    The failure of the United States and Britain to find any banned weapons has sparked a political debate over whether they misled the world by claiming Iraq constituted a deadly threat to international security.


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