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Blix and ElBaradei praise Cyprus' role in hosting office
2002-11-20 10:04:50

Nicosia, Nov 20 (CNA) -- Chief UN weapons inspector, Hans Blix, praised the government of Cyprus for quickly accepting his request for setting up an office in Cyprus and being assured of the government's support in the future.

Speaking after he and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director Mohamed ElBaradei were received here Wednesday by Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides, Blix said more people would be arriving in Larnaca today and that by Christmas it is estimated the inspectors' base in Baghdad will host around 100 people.

Explaining the reasons why Cyprus was chosen to host the transit base of the weapons' inspectors, Blix said it is a place which has a longstanding UN presence and is also one of the countries that supports the UN very well.|

The government of Cyprus, he said, "has been kind to let us open a field office in Larnaca and we will have our inspectors flying in from all parts of the world and then going with our own chartered plane from Larnaca into Baghdad in the future."

He said they had "a very fast discussion" with the government of Cyprus, which was very helpful from the first time he had asked whether the weapons' inspectors could open an office in Cyprus, adding that the agreement to set up the office was concluded fast something which he appreciated because the process at the UN Security Council was swift too.

"So we have also inaugurated our presence in Larnaca and we have been assured of very good support from the government in the future", Blix added.

Blix said he and El Barandei have been on a tour to start a new chapter in inspections in Iraq. They opened up offices in Baghdad "left a number of people there who will do the logistics and build up the logistic base for inspection. The inspectors will come in the next week and start the first inspection on November 27," he said.

ElBaradei said they were "very pleased" to start their operation in Iraq and "to start our new launching pad in Cyprus," noting it is "a very convenient practical arrangement" for them and thanked the Cyprus government for its "gracious hospitality."

Currently there are 15 people in Baghdad but more people will be arriving Wednesday and in the coming days through Larnaca on their way to the Iraqi capital, including different technicians and teams, carrying special equipment.

"We have very large premises there (in Iraq). By Christmas time we estimate on our side there will be about hundred people, excluding the IAEA people. It is a small operation but it is very important and vital at the present stage," Blix added.

The Chief UN weapons' inspector will be leaving today for New York. He will stopover in London where he will chair a meeting of the Chernobyl Shelter Fund "which is part of my history," as he said.

ElBaradei will be leaving for Vienna tomorrow.

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