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UN-Iraq talks to be held over three days, starting tomorrow

UN-Iraq talks to be held over three days, starting tomorrow

The next round of talks between United Nations officials and a high-level delegation from Baghdad aimed at breaking the current impasse over weapons inspections in Iraq will be held over three days starting tomorrow, according to the Office of the Spokesman for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Mr. Annan is scheduled to open meetings with Foreign Minister Naji Sabri at noon, and talks will resume in the afternoon with full delegations.

On Thursday, the Secretary-General will be in Washington, DC, but the UN-Iraq talks will continue at the expert level, according to the spokesman's office. Mr. Annan and the Foreign Minister, along with their delegations, will resume their talks on Friday morning.

The previous round of meetings between the Secretary-General and Foreign Minister Sabri was held in New York on 7 March.

In another development, Iraq last week continued its suspension of petroleum exports under the United Nations 'oil-for-food' programme, which allows Baghdad to use a portion of its crude revenue to purchase humanitarian relief, the UN office running the effort announced today.

Revenue loss as a result of the suspension, which began on 8 April, is now estimated at $1.2 billion, according to the Office of the Iraq Programme. There are currently no funds available to cover 1,192 approved contracts for the purchase of various humanitarian supplies and equipment valued at $2.9 billion.

Meanwhile, the Security Council committee monitoring the sanctions against Iraq has released from hold 46 contracts worth almost $130 million, while placing 36 new contracts worth $60 million on hold. The total value of “holds” stands at around $5.1 billion.