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UN-Iraq talks slated to resume on 18 April in New York

UN-Iraq talks slated to resume on 18 April in New York

A United Nations spokesman today confirmed that planned talks between senior Iraqi officials and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan are set to take place in New York from 18 to 19 April.

The mid-April meetings follow on contacts between the Secretary-General and Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri on 7 March. At the time, a UN spokesman described those talks as “frank and useful,” noting that discussions had focused on core issues, including the return of UN weapons inspectors to Iraq; Kuwaiti and Iraqi missing persons; and the return of Kuwaiti property.

Today, spokesman Fred Eckhard told reporters that Mr. Annan was “hoping for a substantive and focused discussion, specifically on the issue of arms inspectors to Iraq.” UN inspectors have not been able to operate in the country since 1998.

Mr. Eckhard emphasized that the Secretary-General was functioning as an intermediary. “The Secretary-General is not empowered by the Council to negotiate anything less than full compliance” with Council resolutions. “What he hopes for is Iraq’s signal to the Council through him that they are ready to comply fully.”

Asked how the timetable for the talks had been set, the spokesman said, “these dates were originally proposed by the Secretary-General at the end of the last talks,” with Iraqi officials recently confirming their planned attendance. “The Secretary-General himself thought two days, rather than one, might be necessary,” Mr. Eckhard added.