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As UN-Iraq talks open in New York, Annan says key focus is on return of inspectors

As UN-Iraq talks open in New York, Annan says key focus is on return of inspectors

Kofi Annan with Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri
As a new round of talks between the United Nations and senior Baghdad officials got under way today at UN Headquarters in New York, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he expected the discussions to focus on the return of weapons inspectors to Iraq.

"We are going to be discussing the implementation of Security Council resolutions and we will discuss the return of the inspectors, but obviously there must be something on the minds of the Iraqis that they would also want to put on the table," Mr. Annan told reporters this morning. "I would hope that we can spend a considerable amount of time on the return of the inspectors."

The Secretary-General added that Security Council members were hoping for the success of the talks that would lead to the return of the inspectors. "I have lots of encouragement from the Council," he said.

The talks, set to run through Friday, began around noon with a brief one-on-one meeting between Mr. Annan and Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri, followed by the meeting between the two delegations. According to a UN spokesman, the UN team included Hans Blix, Executive Chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), and Mohammed ElBaradei, Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

On Thursday, the Secretary-General will be in Washington, D.C., but the UN-Iraq talks will continue at the expert level. Mr. Annan and the Foreign Minister Sabri, along with their delegations, will resume their talks on Friday morning.