HERALD SUN : 16mar03
IRAQ said that five of eight helicopters used by UN weapons inspectors have left for Syria en route to Cyprus after a Western insurance company suspended its cover for the aircraft.
The UN spokesman in Baghdad, Hiro Ueki, could not immediately be reached for comment, and no reason was given for the company’s action. But the looming threat of a US-led invasion Iraq has lent special urgency to a summit in the Azores today among US President George W Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Spain’s Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar.
The eight helicopters have been used by the inspectors since January to travel across Iraq to visit sites suspected of involvement in the manufacture of weapons of mass destruction.
The five that pulled out are US-made Bell-212s and the three that remain are Russian-made M-8s, which are insured by another company.
The three M-8 aircraft would continue to be used in the inspections, according to a statement by the National Monitoring Directorate, the Iraqi state agency that liaises with the inspectors.