Archive for Saturday, January 11, 2003

U.S. pledges to resettle Iraqi scientists

January 11, 2003


— The United States has promised the United Nations that it would permanently resettle Iraqi scientists who provided information on Iraq's secret arms programs, U.S. officials said Friday. Some family members also could be granted asylum.

The Bush administration also has provided weapons inspectors with a list of between 80 and 100 names of key scientists involved in developing Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and ballistic missiles. Each is considered a potential source for information on Iraq's past and present clandestine programs, U.S. officials say.

Washington is pressing chief weapons inspector Hans Blix to begin "inviting" about two dozen Iraqi scientists to travel to Cyprus as early as next week for interviews, the sources added. The Mediterranean island is the backup staging post for the inspection teams.

"We hope the U.N. teams will start this process as soon as possible, hopefully next week," a State Department official said Friday.

U.S. and U.N. officials agree that the scientists are more likely to reveal secrets if they and their families are in a secure location outside Iraq. So far, Iraqi scientists have refused to be interviewed except in the presence of an Iraqi government official, apparently to avoid reprisals against themselves and their families.

The inspections are expected to intensify during the next few weeks -- with more sites visited and more scientists interviewed, administration officials said. On Jan. 27, Blix is scheduled to give the U.N. Security Council a more definitive declaration of the results of the new inspections, although administration officials insist that date is not a deadline for a war decision.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld signed orders Friday for nearly 35,000 U.S. troops, including two large groups of Marines, to deploy for a possible war against Iraq, officials said.It was the largest single deployment order since the Pentagon began its force buildup in the Gulf last month.

Although the United States has argued since September that defecting Iraqi scientists were likely to provide more useful information than on-site inspections, the Bush administration has resisted offering to resettle large numbers of potential defectors and their families. As in the past, Washington had been encouraging European allies to take the lead.

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