The UN's new Iraqi arms control body has recruited and trained enough inspectors to form an advance team should Iraq agree to let the United Nations resume monitoring, a spokesman said Tuesday.
However, Ewen Buchanan, spokesman for the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) said the commission was still far short of full strength, which he estimated at slightly more than 130 people.
"We have completed the first month-long training course for inspectors," he said.
"Forty-four trainees of 19 different nationalities took part, and that is a wider spread than UNSCOM ever had at any one time," he added, referring to the UN Special Commission, the previous control body.
UNSCOM left Iraq in December 1998 on the eve of a bombing campaign by the British and US air forces, and UN arms inspectors have not been allowed back into the country since then.
The new commission was set up by the UN Security Council on December 17th last year, in a resolution which offered to suspend the 10-year-old Iraqi sanctions regime if Iraq cooperates fully with the inspectors.
Buchanan said that about half the recruits had been offered full-time jobs with UNMOVIC and half had been put onto a roster of experts who were "trained, fit and available."
He said the inspectors were "not all military types" and included civil engineers who were trained to detect the possible military uses of an apparently innocent factory.
The 16 members of UNMOVIC's college of commissioners are scheduled to meet at UN headquarters in New York on Wednesday and Thursday to discuss the second quarterly report by UNMOVIC chairman Hans Blix.
The report is due to go the UN Security Council on September 1.
"Recruitment and training is an ongoing process. Further recruitment and training are planned," Buchanan said.
He recalled that in Resolution 1284, the Security Council said that Blix must report to it "immediately that UNMOVIC is fully operational in Iraq."
He added: "I don't think you can be fully operational with only a dozen people on the ground."
A second training course is expected to take place in France later this year -- UNITED NATIONS (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )