The search for Saddam Hussein's biological warfare secrets was reinforced in early 1997 when the United Nations quietly created special "concealment teams" to track individuals, cars and safe houses.
"It is very aggressive," said Charles Duelfer, deputy chairman of the U.N. Special Commission to Iraq. "We have very energetic inspectors, and it gets us into a great deal of friction with the Iraqis."
U.N. reports reveal that in June of last year, Iraqi personnel accompanying the concealment teams "grabbed the co-pilots' controls" "threatened to shut off the fuel pump" "interfered with the flight controls" and "lunged at some of the switches."
"They were fighting with the photographer," Ekeus said. "They were moving in one case with their own choppers surrounding ours, bringing it very close."
What U.N. inspectors fear most is that Iraq may yet use stockpiled chemical or biological weapons, perhaps in an attack on Israel, or a terrorist mission in the United States. Iraq says the inspectors' fears are contrived.
"This is a big lie that has been floated by the American elements and UNSCOM (the U.N. weapons inspection team) in order to use it as a pretext for keeping the sanctions," said Aziz.
Despite Iraq's promises, U.N. inspectors are doubtful that the apparatus of biological war -- from 14 missing tons of growth media to the secret production facilities to the final delivery systems -- will be willingly disclosed.
Says Ekeus: "We should be extremely watchful and careful, that is clear. Because this is the most dangerous weapon imaginable."