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Inspectors mark first month of work with visit to factory

Updated:

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ U.N. arms experts marked their first month of inspections Friday by visiting an engineering plant in Baghdad, the Iraqi government said.

The inspectors went to the Al Nassir Al Atheem State Company in Baghdad, a plant formerly known as the State Heavy Engineering Company, the Iraqi Information Ministry said. It gave no details about the plant and did not say what it manufacturers.

The visit was a follow-up to one on Dec. 16. The inspectors, who resumed work in Iraq on Nov. 27 after a four-year break, had checked out the site during their inspections in the 1990s. Much of its equipment has dual civilian and military uses.

In their second visit Friday, the inspectors went to Al Asseryia Company, a factory that produces alcohol products on the outskirts of Baghdad, the Information Ministry said.

Meanwhile, in a sermon broadcast live on Iraqi state television, a cleric in a Baghdad mosque railed against U.S. pressure on the country.

``God rescue us from the Americans,'' said Abdel-Razaq Al-Saadi in the Abdel-Qader Al-Kailani Mosque. ``It has become the duty of every Muslim to stand in the face of this American Satan, and to say 'No'.''

``God make their planes fall, and their ships sink. God grant victory to President-leader Saddam Hussein,'' Al-Saadi said, reading from a text that would have been approved by the government.

On Thursday, U.S.-British planes bombed Iraqi military command and communication targets in southern Iraq in retaliation for Iraq's downing of a U.S. reconnaissance drone earlier in the week. The Iraqi government said three civilians were killed and 16 others wounded in an airstrike on what it described as a civilian target.

The inspections are being carried out on Friday, the Muslim sabbath, under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441, which entitles the inspectors to visit any facility or property at any time.

On a Friday earlier this month, the inspectors had difficulty gaining access to certain rooms in a Baghdad facility because the officials with the keys were at home for the weekend.

During the 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.

However, the inspectors do not believe they had found all of Iraq's banned arsenal by the time they left ahead of U.S. and British airstrikes in late 1998. After the airstrikes, Iraq refused to allow the inspectors to return and insisted it had no weapons of mass destruction.

However, Iraq agreed to readmit the inspectors after the passage of Resolution 1441, which warns Baghdad of ``serious consequences'' if it does not cooperate with the U.N. disarmament process.

The United States and Britain have threatened to disarm Iraq by force if it does not cooperate with the U.N. inspectors.
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