In a rare trip outside the capital, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein on Saturday toured the district of Mosul in northern Iraq, the official Iraqi News Agency said.

State-run television showed crowds shouting "With our blood and souls we will defend you, Saddam."Iraqis slaughtered sheep, a traditional act of celebration, before the president in villages around Mosul, 250 miles north of Baghdad, the television reported.

Saddam is believed to have spent most of the past few months in Baghdad during a standoff over U.N. weapons inspections that had the United States threatening military strikes. The president's movements are generally known to only a few.

Also Saturday, a U.N. team led by American Scott Ritter finished its second day of inspections aimed at uncovering Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

The Iraqi News Agency said the team carried out three surprise inspections that "went ahead in a normal manner according to procedures agreed upon by the two sides."

This suggested that they were inspections of "sensitive sites," such as ministries and military or intelligence headquarters, which require special procedures.

On Friday, Ritter's team inspected three suspected weapons sites classified as "sensitive" by Iraqi authorities, U.N. Special Commission spokesman Alan Da-cey said.

One was a barracks of the elite Republican Guard, a source told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Ritter is here with 50 inspectors - one of the largest teams ever sent to Iraq - and is expected to spend a week in the country.

Officials at the Iraqi Press Center have banned reporters, photographers and television crews from covering Ritter's activities. They did not say why the ban was imposed.

In January, Iraq accused Ritter of being an American spy and said he had too many American and British inspectors on his teams. The government prevented Ritter from working by denying his team the necessary escorts.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf left Saturday for New York, where he is to hold discussions starting Monday with U.N. officials on how money from the oil-for-food program is to be spent.