Top UN Iraq Weapons
Inspector Quits - Resignation
Letter Said 'Explosive'
A leading United Nations weapons inspector has resigned, accusing the Security Council, the United States and the UN secretary general of surrendering to the Iraqi leadership.
In his letter of resignation, Scott Ritter said the Security Council's reaction to Iraq's decision earlier this month to suspend co-operation with the inspection team made a mockery of its disarmament work.
In the letter, which is described as "explosive", Mr Ritter accused the secretary general of allowing his office to become a "sounding board" for Iraqi grievances.
Mr Ritter, an American, also accused the Iraqi Government of lying to the world about the scope and nature of its weapons systems.
Observers say his feelings are likely to be shared by other weapons inspectors.
Mr Ritter has been regularly been accused by the Iraqis of spying for the United States.
In terms of the ceasefire which ended the Gulf War in 1991, the UN established a Special Commission (UNSCOM) to monitor the dismantling of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
In exchange for the lifting of sanctions, Iraq was required to provide the UN with details of such weapons, to agree to their dismantling, and to undertake not to develop any more weapons in the future.
The present impasse over the weapons inspections dates to early in August, when UN Chief Weapons Inspector Richard Butler refused to comply with an Iraqi demand that he declare the country to be free of weapons of mass destruction, before the UN inspectors had completed their programme.
Two weeks ago, the US State Department was reported to have put pressure on Mr Butler not to make surprise weapons inspections in Iraq, in order to ease the tensions between Washington and Baghdad.
However, both US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Mr Butler denied these reports.