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CNN BREAKING NEWS

U.N. Inspectors Mission to Northern No-Fly Zone Aborted

Aired January 18, 2003 - 14:11   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

RENAY SAN MIGUEL, CNN ANCHOR: We have some breaking news to tell you about right now. We're going to go to Richard Roth who is in Cyprus, our senior U.N. correspondent, talking about the U.N. weapons inspections involving Iraq. Richard, what can you tell us?
RICHARD ROTH, CNN SR. U.N. CORRESPONDENT: Yes, United Nations weapons team that focused on the missile problem ran into some difficulties and had to abort a mission. What happened is that this U.N. weapons team went to the Al-Rasheed air base outside of Baghdad. They were going to fly helicopters, quote, "to a site deep inside the northern no-fly zone," but they had to cancel the mission for safety reasons due to the insistence of Iraqi officials wanting to fly their helicopters to follow the U.N. helicopters into the no-fly zone.

Now, in the past, over four years ago, when the inspectors were in there, previously at the edge of the no-fly zone, the Iraqi helicopters, the U.N. helicopters would land together, Iraqi minders would get into the U.N. helicopters and then they would proceed into the no-fly zone near Kurdish occupied land, but now the Iraqis, according to sources today, insisted on flying their own helicopters into the no-fly zone. U.N. felt this presented several safety risks. Number one being that under the U.N. resolution, the United States believes that Iraq has no right to fly into these no-fly zones and thus the U.S. could shoot down or shoot at the Iraqi helicopters, thus endangering the U.N. crews.

The U.N. does not consider this a smoking gun. It does not consider this something to rush to the Security Council with. They do consider it, quote, "another topic, another issue to be raised when Hans Blix and Mohamed El-Baradei, the international experts, meet with Iraqi officials beginning tomorrow" -- Renay.

SAN MIGUEL: Richard Roth reporting live from Cyprus, involving the U.N. weapons inspections team and the latest news there. Thank you very much, Richard.

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