Watching the Inspectors

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BAGHDAD: The UNSCOM inspectors have long suspected Iraqis of sneaking suspect materials out even as they entered a site. But a report in Tuesday's New York Times reveals that U-2 surveillance flights confirm that the so-called "no-notice" inspections are a mockery. Iraq knows about the spot checks ahead of time, said U.S. military sources, and moves equipment accordingly. It's even suggested that UNSCOM inspectors are being spied on at U.N. headquarters in New York.

Armed with this knowledge, President Clinton stepped up his attack on Iraq’s refusal to grant inspectors access to 68 palaces, presidential compounds and VIP residences. "Some of them actually encompass more land than Washington, D.C., does," Clinton said at the Asia-Pacific summit in Vancouver.

Still, nobody is pushing for a confrontation yet. "Let's take this one step at a time," said National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, adding that the inspectors should be allowed to decide their own timetable. With the three-week standoff still fresh in everyone's memory and the Russian-brokered deal that ended it still tenuous, the U.S. isn't about to strong-arm its way into these palaces — even if they do constitute a suspiciously large amount of Iraqi real estate.

  • For in-depth coverage, click on TIME's special report on Iraq.