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Annan briefs Security Council on Iraq talks, gets go-ahead for new round

Annan briefs Security Council on Iraq talks, gets go-ahead for new round

Annan speaking to the press
After briefing the United Nations Security Council on the results of his talks yesterday with the Foreign Minister of Iraq, Secretary-General Kofi Annan today said he had received the Council’s backing to continue contacts with Baghdad aimed at returning UN weapons inspectors to the country.

“The Council generally encourages me to go ahead with the discussions with the Iraqis, on the understanding that we are talking of the implementation of all Security Council resolutions, and that we will focus on the core issues,” Mr. Annan told reporters following his closed-door briefing to the 15-member body on his meetings Thursday with Foreign Minister Naji Sabri.

Asked to comment further on the support of Council members, he said, “They would hope that these talks will move on expeditiously and yield results that will send in the inspectors. So I am focussed on that, and I hope all Council members who, as I said right now, have given me their endorsement, will work with me in that direction.”

“I am guided by the Security Council resolutions and by the work of the Council,” Mr. Annan emphasized.

Responding to a question on Baghdad’s willingness to allow UN weapons inspectors back into the country, Mr. Annan said it was “significant” that the issue had been discussed in the presence of Hans Blix, the Executive Chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), as well as the head of Iraq’s monitoring team, General Amin. “I think it is an indication, at least for now, that they are taking this issue seriously.”

At the same time, the Secretary-General cautioned against undue optimism. “We are at a very early stage yet, so we should not claim success or failure yet,” he said. “We are at a very, very early beginning, but it was a good start.”

Noting that the talks were expected to continue in mid-April, he added that both Iraq and the UN were “looking at our calendars” to determine the exact date.