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Head of UN weapons inspectors to attend Annan's talks with Iraqi officials

Head of UN weapons inspectors to attend Annan's talks with Iraqi officials

A United Nations spokesman today confirmed that Executive Chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) would attend talks later this week between Iraqi officials and Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

"Hans Blix will be in the meeting," spokesman Fred Eckhard said in response to questions by reporters in New York. He added that the talks would open at 10 a.m. on Thursday morning "and last for something like three and a half hours - at least that's the provisional plan."

Asked about Mr. Annan's agenda for the meeting, the spokesman said, "As far as the Secretary-General is concerned, they'll be talking about UN resolutions, and his emphasis will be implementation, implementation, implementation."

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

Meanwhile, the office running the UN oil-for-food programme, which allows Iraq to use a portion of its oil revenues to purchase humanitarian relief, announced today that exports "gained considerably in volume last week, averaging almost 2.5 million barrels per day, following month-long sluggish levels."

According to the Office of the Iraq Programme, Baghdad sold a total of 17.4 million barrels of crude, netting an estimated €370 million (euros) or $320 million in revenue.