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Guards inspect UN Baghdad headquarters

Iraqi mustard bombs found during a previous UN weapons inspection visit (UN)

Three Swiss infrastructure specialists have begun inspecting the building that will serve as the headquarters for the United Nations weapons inspection team in Iraq.

The offices were used for the previous UN mission, which was abandoned in 1998.

The Swiss specialists, who are members of the army's fortification guards, are responsible for ensuring that the Baghdad headquarters of the weapons inspectors is habitable.

The group, which arrived on Wednesday, was sent as an advance party to establish what needs to be done to make the command centre useable. They are busy inspecting the building's doors, windows, walls, water pipes and electrical wiring.

The inspection is expected to last two to three days, by when the specialists should be able to determine what repair work needs to be carried out.

They would then be joined by at least ten more Swiss colleagues - including plumbers, electricians, and air conditioning and structural engineers - who will carry out construction and other alterations before the arrival of the weapons inspectors.

Switzerland had offered, in mid-September, to provide weapons inspectors to join the new UN mission, but was asked instead for logistical support.

Scrutiny

Adrian Baumgartner, a spokesman for the Swiss defence ministry, said the advance party was expected to return to Switzerland by the middle of the week.

Swiss experts had participated in UN weapons inspections before Iraq closed its doors to international scrutiny in 1998.

Many of them were from the Spiez Laboratory, Switzerland's main weapons institute, which works towards reducing the threat from nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

Last week Iraq accepted a new UN resolution giving Baghdad one last chance to disarm, paving the way for weapons inspectors to return after a four-year absence.

Iraq has until December 8 to make a complete declaration of all its weapons to the UN.

swissinfo with agencies

In BRIEF

Swiss infrastructure specialists are preparing the ground for UN weapons inspectors in Baghdad.

The Swiss are not sending any weapons inspectors to Iraq.

Swiss experts had been part of previous UN inspections of Iraqi weapons prior to 1998.

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