At the request of the Government of Iraq and pursuant to the NPT Safeguards Agreement with Iraq, a team of IAEA safeguards inspectors has completed the annual Physical Inventory Verification of declared nuclear material in Iraq, and is returning to Vienna. The material - natural or low-enriched uranium - is not sensitive from a proliferation perspective and is consolidated at a storage facility near the Tuwaitha complex, south of Baghdad. This inspection was conducted with the logistical and security assistance of the Multinational Force and the Office of the UN Security Coordinator.
Inspections such as this are required by safeguards agreements with every non-nuclear-weapon state party to the NPT that has declared holdings of nuclear material, to verify the correctness of the declaration, and that material has not been diverted to any undeclared activity. Such inspections have been performed in Iraq on a continuing basis. The most recent took place in June 2003, following reports of looting of nuclear material at the Tuwaitha complex; IAEA inspectors recovered, repackaged and resealed all but a minute amount of material. NPT safeguards inspections are limited in scope and coverage as compared to the verification activities carried out in 1991-98 and 2002-03 by the IAEA under Security Council resolution 687 and related resolutions.
"This week's mission was a good first step," IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei said. "Now we hope to be in a position to complete the mandate entrusted to us by the Security Council, to enable the Council over time to remove all sanctions and restrictions imposed on Iraq - so that Iraq's rights as a full-fledged member of the international community can be restored." The removal of remaining sanctions is dependent on completion of the verification process by the IAEA and the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC).
It should be noted that IAEA technical assistance to Iraq has been resumed over recent months. IAEA marine scientists have completed a regional pollution survey to guide the UN Development Programme in the clearing of sunken wreckage from Iraq's coastal zone. IAEA personnel have also provided data on radioactive sources around the country. A delegation led by the Iraqi Science and Technology Minister visited IAEA headquarters last month to discuss technical cooperation in fields as various as radiation protection, radioactive waste management, combating illicit trafficking, the physical protection of radioactive materials, and human-resource development for nuclear applications.