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IRAQ COULD RESTART CHEMICAL ARSENAL IN 6 MONTHS, FORMER INSPECTOR WARNS

Iraq could start rebuilding its arsenal of chemical weapons in six months if arms inspections are halted, a former top weapons inspector for the United Nations warned on Sunday.

Scott Ritter, who resigned last week to protest limits on weapons inspections, said Iraq was prepared to resume building prohibited weapons if inspections ceased.

"Six months is a very reasonable time scale for Iraq to resume weapons capabilities," Ritter said on the ABC program "This Week."

Ritter also reiterated his charges that top U.S. and U.N. officials pressured the U.N. Special Commission, which conducts inspections in Iraq, to curb planned surprise inspections over the past year.

Ritter said that in July and again in August he and a team of inspectors were prepared to conduct visits to Iraqi facilities but political pressure stymied both attempts.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and National Security Adviser Sandy Berger intervened to block the August inspection, Ritter said. Ms. Albright has denied instructing the U.N. Special Commission not to conduct inspections.

"In August, we had another team deployed, ready to go, we had very, very good sites based on sound intelligence," Ritter said. "This time, the United States, through intervention from both Madeleine Albright and Sandy Berger, had the inspection first postponed for a matter of days and then canceled outright."

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