U.N. arms experts went into each of the 1,058 buildings inside Saddam Hussein's eight presidential compounds but found most empty, an American weapons inspector said Friday.
The inspections were a key test of a U.N.-Iraq accord that averted the threat of a war in the region.The inspectors found no prohibited material or documents during the eight days of searches, said Charles Duelfer, the deputy head of the U.N. Special Commission, which is charged with dismantling Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
"Today we see the final page of the mission," Duelfer said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Iraq praised the end of the inspections, saying the fact that nothing was found contradicted U.S. and British accusations that the sites contained stockpiles of illegal weapons. It urged the Security Council to take steps to lift sweeping U.N. sanctions.
"What has been achieved is a triumph for the truth over falsehood," Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz said, according to the official Iraqi News Agency. "The visit has verified Iraq's credibility."
Inspectors, however, had not expected to find much at the sites and repeatedly had said they wanted to set a precedent of entering sites that Iraq had long said were off limits as symbols of national sovereignty.
The visits, which began March 26, were designed to "establish our right to unrestricted access," Duelfer said.
The inspections began with a visit to the Radwaniyah palace in Baghdad. They continued in the north and south and ended in the capital with inspections Wednesday and Thursday of the Sijood Palace and the Republican Palace, which serves as the seat of government.
Most of the buildings were empty except for a few in the main Republican Palace compound, Duelfer said. There, inspectors came across furniture and office supplies, he said, declining to be more specific.
Duelfer also refused to speculate on why the buildings were bare. But Iraqi officials said many of the buildings were emptied months ago when tension escalated over Iraq's refusal to grant access to the palaces and Iraq feared an attack on the sites.
The 71 U.N. arms monitors who took part in the survey had "access to every building that we wanted," Duelfer said.
The most sensitive site was the Republican Palace in downtown Baghdad, 1-square-mile compound that houses Saddam's main office overlooking the Tigris River.