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Annan to discuss return of UN arms inspectors during upcoming talks with Iraq

Annan to discuss return of UN arms inspectors during upcoming talks with Iraq

The United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, today said he plans to discuss the resumption of UN weapons inspections in Iraq during talks with officials from Baghdad set to open in New York later this week.

"I am going to discuss with the Iraqi delegation the implementation of Security Council resolutions and the return of the inspectors," Mr. Annan told the press when asked about his plans for the 7 March talks with Iraqi officials. "That is the basis on which I am going to discuss [these issues] with the Iraqis," he added.

A spokesman for Mr. Annan who was asked by reporters on the length of the meeting said it was scheduled to run from the morning until “just after mid-day.” Asked whether that meant that there would be no afternoon talks, the spokesman replied, “That’s my understanding, yes.”

UN inspectors have not been in Iraq since 1998, when experts from the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) departed the country. In 1999, the Security Council created the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) to continue UNSCOM's mandate to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction, and to operate a system of ongoing monitoring and verification.

UNMOVIC has so far been unable to operate in Iraq, because Baghdad maintained that it had fulfilled all requirements under the Council's "ceasefire" resolution 687 (1991) concerning weapons of mass destruction.

In a related development, UNMOVIC's latest periodic report was issued today, reviewing the Commission's activities since December 2001.

In the report, UNMOVIC Executive Chairman Hans Blix notes that he "had been with the Secretary-General of the United Nations when the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Amre Moussa, conveyed a message that Iraq was ready to resume without any preconditions the dialogue with the United Nations."

"It is understood that the Secretary-General will take up the issue of implementation of Security Council resolutions relevant to Iraq and that the Executive Chairman will be available to join the Secretary-General in such a dialogue," the report states.