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Iraq expels American weapons inspectors

demonstration November 13, 1997
Web posted at: 1:56 p.m. EST (1856 GMT)

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraq on Thursday ordered all American weapons inspectors in the country to leave immediately. The order was given by the Revolutionary Command Council headed by President Saddam Hussein, and was announced on Iraqi TV.

Bill Richardson, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, called Iraq's order "unacceptable" and said there would be "grave consequences."

In a television interview, Richardson said, "Iraq is pushing this issue to the brink and there's going to be some grave consequences."

vxtreme CNN's Bernard Shaw talks to Tariq Aziz, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister

It was not clear if American inspectors would obey the order or if non-American inspectors would also leave Iraq in a gesture of solidarity with their American colleagues.

Iraq's decision came a day after the 15-member U.N. Security Council, by a unanimous vote, condemned Iraq, imposed a travel ban on Iraqi officials who blocked inspections and warned of "further measures" if it did not reverse its decision to kick out the Americans.

Iraq had said it would expel the American inspectors if the Security Council condemned it for blocking the inspections.

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"All American inspectors should leave Iraq immediately until the American administration and the Security Council decide to review their irresponsible policy and their dealing with Iraq," the Revolutionary Command Council said, as quoted by the official Iraqi news agency INA.

INA said Iraq will continue cooperating with the U.N. Special Commission (UNSCOM), which performs weapons inspections and surveillance of Iraq's disarmament efforts as a result of economic sanctions imposed on the country following its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

The inspectors are in Iraq to ensure that Saddam's regime is complying with U.N. resolutions to dismantle its weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles. Unless that happens, the United Nations will not lift the sanctions.

On Thursday, for the 10th time in 11 days, Iraq turned back Americans from suspected weapons sites, and the other inspectors also stayed away.

Iraq will accept new inspectors from countries other than the United States, INA said.

Correspondent Peter Arnett contributed to this report.

 
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